04 April 2012
Launching a Nonprofit Network: The Power of Collaboration
Quick. Name all the local nonprofits you think add to the quality of life in town…
Most of us could easily rattle off six or seven without stopping for a breath – Norman Williams Public Library, Thompson Senior Center, Change The World Kids, Zack's Place, Woodstock Job Bank, Pentangle, VINS, Sustainable Woodstock… And that's just the tip of an iceberg of dozens of nonprofit organizations that improve life in our community every day.
But here's an interesting thought. Unlike our town’s for-profit entities that are promoted and sustained by the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Commission, the local nonprofits have no such supportive umbrella organization. It's a gap that many feel should be filled.
So over the past year or so, stirrings of change have appeared among our local nonprofits, several of which had begun talking about opportunities for greater coordination and collaboration. And the leaders and boards of these organizations are very excited about the possibilities.
Although there have long been informal linkages among many of these organizations, a year or so ago some more structured conversations began when the director and board members of Sustainable Woodstock hosted a series of lunch meetings with community leaders. The seeds of collaboration planted in those discussions sprouted late last year when the Ottauquechee Community Partnership announced plans to appoint a volunteer coordinator.
"Because other nonprofits had similar needs, some of us began talking to Jackie Fisher (OCP’s Executive Director) about the possibility of creating a Community Volunteer Coordinator role," said Sally Miller, Director of Sustainable Woodstock. "A group of us began some conversations that just grew from there."
A couple weeks ago, some of those nonprofit organization leaders sat together to plan the formation of the Woodstock Area Nonprofit Network. The draft mission statement suggests that this new body will "create a community of nonprofit leaders to partner, collaborate, and communicate for our mutual benefit and for those we serve."
Elizabeth Craib, Job Coordinator at the Woodstock Job Bank and a participant in the initial discussions acknowledged she was excited to be a part of this evolving nonprofit dialogue in the community. "By learning what other organizations are doing, we can make better use of our funds. And more importantly, we can better serve our constituency of area employers and job seekers."
The planning group has sent out invitations to 45 area nonprofit organizations to attend an initial meeting of the Network on April 12. Already, they have received 25 positive responses. Any local nonprofit wanting to attend should RSVP to Sally Miller at email@example.com or 457-2911.
"There are so many opportunities for us to share ideas and collaborate," said Deanna Jones, Executive Director of Thompson Senior Center. "The idea of collaborating on volunteer coordination brought us together originally. But there are lots of other ways we can share, from grant writing to fundraising, from board development to technology use."
These wonderful contributors to our community really mean business. So as the momentum for this local network builds, there's a good chance we’ll all need to revise our assessment of the impact of nonprofits on our lives...upward!
by Christopher Bartlett