Nonprofit Performance 360 Issue 12

BILL VARNER Nonprofits that Work Together

Beyond Funding

The United Way of Central Virginia is a funding agency strictly focused on social services, but we do much more. We’re fostering creative thinking about how to work together and go to the top, a step at a time.We fund 38 programs in 26 agencies in three counties and the city of Lynchburg. We’re doing that not only around collaborative efforts; we are also establishing a program that we casually refer to as beyond funding. Many people know us as an organization that improves the community through fundraising that supports nonprofits.In the course of visiting these nonprofits and getting familiar with how they operate, I’ve realized that they don’t have departments for marketing, finance, social media, and HR. In many cases, the executive director is a volunteer or, at least, overworked and underpaid. They are in it because their heart is in it and they want to do the right thing. They have ample needs beyond the money we give them.We surveyed our membership at the end of 2017 and asked what we could be helping with besides money.Most said they needed help with grantwriting, marketing, or social media. Many said they needed help with board development and selection, coaching, performance reviews, or their building. We can help with some of those things directly. We have someone who writes grants, and my background is in strategic planning, business development, and communications.

least,you havemultiple organizations that have not communicated with one another, and that may not even know the other exists. Now you have two registered nonprofits with different organizational structures, which have to create boards and have executive directors. They go in their own directions and you have fragmentation.We are replete with organizations that could benefit from coordination. We have identified that as an issue in our strategic plan. We feel that we have a role in being a catalyst to bring those organizations together. Because we work with multiple organizations, we may be the first to see that one organization is doing the same thing as another, and we encourage them to get together and talk. Our funding can go a lot further if we support a consolidated and coordinated effort than if we were trying to support two or more separate organizations. Also, those overlapping organizations are both asking the community for funding. By the third time a person comes and asks for money for the same need, donors realize this isn’t coordinated, and they won’t give their money. Those who do coordinate are better able to sell their cause and potential impact to a donor. There are also cases where the work of one organization could feed the work of another. Two groups taking care of people at different points in their life should be working together.We try to make sure they are doing a hand-off from one organization

We also want to serve as a broker between organizations with needs and community members who can help address those needs. We connected one of our agencies with somebody to help with finances. We will stay in touch and see if this organization can improve its financial situation. We are trying to break the mold of just being an annual check-writer. Everyone needs help in various areas, and they shouldn’t be shy asking for help. We are also bringing business expertise into tax-exempt business models, since a lot of nonprofits don’t think of themselves as businesses. They have to generate revenue or they will go under. People want to go too fast, and we are encouraging them to take a deep breath before starting a new organization. There is a self-imposed urgency sometimes, but in the long haul you can compromise your work by going too fast. Encouraging Collaboration Lynchburg is a unique and wonderful community with a good heart that is willing to step up and rally a group together to address a perceived need. The unintended consequence of that is that there are often too many people who have not yet coordinated. You get multiple efforts that may duplicate an existing effort, or somehow run counter to it. At the very

SynerVision Leadership .org I 33

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