Partners help strengthen community

Author: Gene Stowe

Thirty nonprofit organizations in St. Joseph County are participating in an Executive Fund Development Leadership Program provided by a collaboration of the Community Foundation and the University of Notre Dame.

The nine one-day workshops on the Notre Dame campus, from September through February, are facilitated by leading consultant Jimmie Alford of Chicago and include presentations by top-level experts from both Notre Dame and around the country.

"All of them are looking to philanthropy as one of the strategies for the future to help them grow their organization," Alford said during a break at a recent session.

"They're learning the full gamut of the entire philanthropic enterprise -- annual fund, capital endowment program initiatives, how to message, communicate more effectively with donors, engage the public more in supporting what they're trying to accomplish."

The organizations in the program provide some $175 million in services to the community, not counting Memorial Hospital's $600 million, Alford said, adding that corporate philanthropy in the county apparently is much higher than the national average.

"Nationally, individuals make up about 75 percent of philanthropy and corporations make up about 5 percent," he said. "Here in St. Joseph County, individual giving is more like 50 percent and corporate giving is 30-some percent. It's quite high.

"It could mean that it represents a lot of local business owners who are involved in nonprofit organizations. There's a real partnership in strengthening the community by working together. Many of the businesses in the area have been generous. That generosity helps raise all the boats, so to speak."

Chris Nanni of the Community Foundation said the series is a sequel to a 2009 collaboration with the Mendoza College of Business, where CEOs of nonprofits met 21/2 days four times a year for training on a broad range of topics.

"We've been looking at this issue of capacity-building and how we as a Community Foundation could help the CEOs and the nonprofit sector build its capacity," he said.

Those 20 half-day sessions, with presenters recruited from Notre Dame as well as outside practitioners, covered topics from employment law and leadership styles to social entrepreneurship and board recruitment.

Participants could later get four hours of free consulting from an expert, a feature repeated in the program focused on funding.

"In the leadership program, they got a little bit of everything," said Marc Hardy, director of Nonprofit Executive Education at Notre Dame. "We decided to focus totally on fund development."

Those who complete the course will receive a certificate in nonprofit executive leadership skill development.

Contributions by Notre Dame and the Community Foundation cover most of the costs, between $4,000 and $5,000 per person. Organizations paid $1,500 for the first participant and $1,000 for the second. About half the groups sent two executives.

"We subsidize this," Hardy said. "It's our commitment to make sure that nonprofits are strong and knowledgeable in how they use their resources."