In Guilford County, well over 600 nonprofits actively engage in the life of our community. Some are large, complex organizations and others are small entities doing good work among us.
Many of us generously contribute financially to nonprofits, and sometimes we may wonder about the effective use of funds.
Capacity building — a broad term that encompasses actions nonprofits make to increase effectiveness — can focus on organizational and financial stability, program quality and growth. When it’s successful, it strengthens a nonprofit’s ability to fulfill its mission and serve the community. Capacity building is an investment in the effectiveness and future sustainability of our nonprofits.
Grantmakers can play a critical role in helping nonprofits with capacity building. In the fall of 2017, the Foundation for a Healthy High Point joined forces with Guilford Nonprofit Consortium and Chris Musselwhite, founder of Discovery Learning, to provide an eight-month enhanced capacity building program for three nonprofits in High Point.
By supporting this program, the Foundation for a Healthy High Point fulfilled its mission to encourage, support, influence, and invest in efforts that improve health and wellness throughout Greater High Point. Additionally, The Guilford Nonprofit Consortium, a membership organization for hundreds of area nonprofits, fulfilled its mission to educate, collaborate, and build capacity for nonprofits.
“Innovative, collaborative efforts such as (this one) in which nonprofit partners dedicate time and resources to strengthen their organizations to do their work with the most impact, directly benefit individuals living in High Point,” said Jim Keever, chairman of The Foundation for a Healthy High Point Board of Directors.
The three organizations involved respond to some of High Point’s most critical health issues.
“This work is about making sure that our nonprofit providers, who are being asked to take on increasing roles in health-care delivery, have the people and systems in place to answer this challenge,” Steve Hayes, executive director of The Guilford Nonprofit Consortium.
These efforts are crucial in light of ongoing cuts in government programs that support community health, Hayes said.
This program took innovative approach to the challenges the three nonprofits identified as problematic. Through the lens of this client-centric, action-oriented mindset, the nonprofit leadership teams identified and questioned their assumptions about their challenges and about each other. They listened deeply and came to new insights about tensions that were holding them back. They acknowledged and discussed familiar conflicts. They identified silos (from which arguably no organization is immune), discovered the value of collaboration and found new ways to work together by tackling common conflicts and obstacles.
“I applaud these leaders and the Foundation for a Healthy High Point for their willingness to be vulnerable and take some risk,” Chris Musselwhite, project leader and facilitator of this program, said. “It’s not an easy thing to do for nonprofits that tend to operate in crisis mode — whether their crisis is a financial one or one related to the immediate needs of the people they serve.”
Becky Yates, of Caring Services, Inc., one of the participating nonprofits, said the group was able to focus on a significant problem that required a team approach. “We all had to pause from our daily hustle and bustle, believing that we didn’t have time for planning, and now we realize that having the opportunity to work with an action learning plan and coach was the most important thing we could have done.”
After this program, “all of the organizations will be better able to measure the impact of their work,” Hayes said.
“Our team was able to improve systems and increase efficiencies within the agency, as well as to build a greater sense of teamwork,” said Tom Campbell, president and CEO of Family Service of the Piedmont.
Ruth D. Anderson is executive director of The Servant Leadership School of Greensboro.