Engage a donor to help boost your communication

If your nonprofit wants to do a better job telling your story, ask a foundation, company or individual donor to invest in building your communications capacity.

Communicating effectively and strategically is essential for your nonprofit to succeed in delivering services, serving clients, raising money, operating your organization, engaging and inspiring your board and staff, developing strategic partnerships, and advocating for your cause.

Like any other aspect of your business, communications requires investment to develop the resources and support the strategies you need.

So find a donor or funder who cares about your cause and recognizes the value of strong communications.

Engage prospective investors in a conversation about their interest in your issue. Explain the role you play in addressing community needs. And make it clear that communications is central to every aspect of your work.

Then work with the donor or funder to develop a plan for improving the way you tell your story.

Will you need to hire a staff person to handle communications and marketing? Can you outsource that work? Do you need a new brand and organizational narrative? Will your board and staff need communications training and talking points? What communications materials and content will you need to tell your story to the audiences you need to reach to meet your goals?

By engaging donors and funders in helping you think through your communications needs, and in creating a plan to tell your story more effectively, you then may be able to secure their investment in translating those plans into a stronger communications strategy and program.

Want help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or toddcohen49@gmail.com.

Support Center aims to plug capital gap for small firms

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Three years ago, unable to keep up with growing demand for the baked goods she prepared for customers in her home in Holly Springs, Jackie Green turned to The Support Center, a Raleigh-based nonprofit that provides loans and technical support for small businesses throughout the state.

The Support Center made a $200,000 loan to Green, and helped her get technical support from the Small Business Center at Wake Tech Community College and the Raleigh chapter of SCORE, formerly the Service Corps of Retired Executives.

Green , who used the funds and advice to move Sweet Cheeks Bakery out of her home to a retail location off Highway 55 in Apex and hire two staff members, says she now is on track to turn a profit by early next year.

“I would have not been able to do this without The Support Center,” she says

Founded in 1990 as The North Carolina Minority Support Center, the agency initially provided financial and technical assistance to a network of 18 small minority community-development credit unions, mainly in eastern North Carolina.

But four years ago, after the network of credit unions dwindled to 3 members, with two of them facing financial troubles, the organization rebranded itself as The Support Center and shifted its focus to small-business lending and technical assistance, as well as policy work on small business issues.

“If we were going to be viable and relevant, small-business lending was a great void” that needed to be filled, says Lenwood Long, who co-founded the agency with Martin Eakes, CEO of  Self-Help in Durham, and serves as its president and CEO.

Since 2010, The Support Center has provided a total of nearly $12 million in loans to at least 150 small businesses, supporting over 350 jobs. In 2013 alone, it made $6 million in loans, and expects to lend at least $9 million this year.

Small businesses generate over 85 percent of new jobs in the state but typically fail within their first five years, often because they lack access to capital and technical expertise on issues such as marketing, operations and matching supply and demand, Long says.

The Support Center has secured low-interest loans and grants from federal and state agencies, and low-interest loans and lines of credit from banks and other financial institutions, and makes low-interest loans to small businesses, mainly those owned and run by minorities, women and veterans.

Funds it has secured include nearly $1.3 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture; $1 million each from the U.S. Small Business Administration and the state of North Carolina; nearly $3.4 million from the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund of the U.S. Department of the Treasury; $500,000 each from TD Bank and Wells Fargo; and a line of credit totaling $1.5 million from PNC.

Over the next five years, it aims to secure $35 million. And it has set a $500,000 goal for its inaugural annual-fund drive, which kicks off Oct. 30 with an event at the Renaissance Hotel.

“This work is value-added to the state,” Long says, “and to the economic recovery of the state, and to small businesses as they look for capital they cannot receive from banks.”

Nonprofit news roundup, 10.17.14

Legal Aid gets $975,000 federal grant

The Fair Housing Project, a special unit of Raleigh-based Legal Aid of North Carolina and the state’s only private fair housing enforcement organization, received a “Private Enforcement Initiative” grant worth $325,000 a year for the next three years from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Fair Housing Project is the only group in North Carolina to receive a Private Enforcement Initiative grant, which funds nonprofits that conduct testing and enforcement activities to prevent or eliminate discriminatory housing practices.

StepUp Ministry raises $175,000

StepUp Ministry in Raleigh raised $175,000 at an event at Marbles Kids Museum to celebrate 25 years of serving unemployed, low-income individuals in the Triangle.

Since 2007, StepUp has placed over 2,500 individuals in stable employment, and been supported by nearly 1,200 volunteers, over 1,000 employers and over 2,200 donors.

SAFEchild Advocacy Center serves 1,000 children

Since it was launched by SAFEchild and collaborating partners in November 2010, the SAFEchild Advocacy Center has provided child abuse evaluations for 1,000 children.

A matching gift of $50,000 a year for three straight years from the WakeMed Foundation also allowed SAFEchild to engage in a Child Abuse Fellowship with Duke University and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill that provides a Duke physician to practice at the advocacy center.

Winston-Salam Arts Council gives $1.9 million

The Arts Council of Winston Salem and Forsyth County has made a total of 73 grants totaling $1,875,000 for 2015.

Grants include $1.6 million in organizational support grants; $100,000 in Wells Fargo Arts-In-Education Grants; $30,000 in Duke Energy Regional Artist Grants; and $30,000 in Innovative Project Grants.

Charlotte Bridge Home honored by George W. Bush Institute

Charlotte Bridge Home is one of four veterans service agencies recognized by the George W. Bush Institute as the best organizations in the U.S. serving veterans as they move from the military into civilian life.

Make-A-Wish Eastern North Carolina kicking off women’s fundraising effort

Diane Adams chief people officer at QlikTech, and Billie Redmond, founder of TradeMark Properties, have been named co-chairs the 2015 “WISH – Women Inspiring Strength & Hope” campaign for Make-A-Wish Eastern North Carolina

The campaign, which brings together professional and philanthropic women who activate their personal networks to support Make-A-Wish, raised over $100,000 during its inaugural year in 2014.

The three-month campaign challenges each WISH Champion to raise at least $7,500 to grant a wish and culminates with a celebration luncheon on January 30, 2015, at the Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary.

The WISH Champion who raises the most during the Campaign will be recognized as the 2015 WISH Woman of the Year.

The campaign will kick off with a private social cocktail event hosted by Joanne Pike on November 6.

SAVE gets Allstate Foundation grant

National Association of Students Against Violence Everywhere has received a grant from The Allstate Foundation to sponsor a teen safe driving and youth safety campaign led by 20 of its chapters across North Carolina.

SAVE, a national nonprofit that was launched at West Charlotte High School in Charlotte in 1989 and works to prevent violence and advocates for student safety, joined forces with The Allstate Foundation in 2005.

As part of the grant, each chapter will receive free SAVE affiliation and mini-grants for teen safe driving activities, educational materials, ongoing support and technical assistance for SAVE’s youth safety efforts, and opportunities to partner with local Allstate agents to further the cause.

Allen moves to N.C. Foundation for Advanced Health Programs

Calvin Allen, program officer at the Golden LEAF Foundation, has joined the North Carolina Foundation for Advanced Health Programs as director of its Regional Support Center.

Allen Tate Realtors raises $17,000 for public education

Allen Tate Realtors in the Triad raised $17,000 to benefit public education. Local education organizations that will benefit from the funding include Alamance-Burlington Schools, Asheboro City Schools Educational Foundation, Children’s Museum of Alamance County, Davidson County Education Foundation, The Enrichment Fund for Guilford County Schools, Guilford Education Alliance, Randolph County Schools Endowment, Rockingham County Schools, and Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools.

American Heart Association teams with Novant Health

The American Heart Association is partnering with Novant Health as the first-ever Greater Triad Go Red For Women Wellness Partner.

Greensboro nonprofit furniture bank to hold estate sale

The Barnabas Network, a nonprofit furniture bank in Greensboro, will open its doors to the public on October 18 at 8 a.m. for the third edition of “Greensboro’s Biggest Estate Sale.”

Symphony honors programs director at Community School of the Arts

The North Carolina Symphony honored Aram Kim Bryan, director of programs at Community School of the Arts in Charlotte, with the Jackson Parkhurst Award for Special Achievement.

Nonprofits participating in Leadership Gift School seen raising more money

Nonprofits that have participated in the Leadership Gift School are raising more money from individuals, says a study by the Urban Institute at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Increases in giving by individuals range from 5.4 percent to 996.1 percent at 27 of 35 organizations that completed a survey, representing a response rate of 83 percent.

The number of donors who made gifts of $5,000 to $10,000 grew at 16 of 30 organizations, as  did the number of donors who made gifts over $10,000.

Most organizations that responded said their boards are engaging their members in fundraising.

Most organizations also said they are making major and leadership gift development a top priority by measuring the level of engagement of their staff and board.

Garner Rotary Club to hold 10th anniversary fundraiser

Garner Rotary Club will hold its 10th Anniversary fundraiser, Oysters & More, on October 23 at the Fidelity Business Park from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Club uses the fundraiser’s proceeds to fund scholarships for seniors at local high schools.

Volunteers pitch in at elementary school

HandsOn Northwest North Carolina teamed with Winston-Salem-based IMG College and the WME  Foundation to mobilize their local employees on October 16 to perform service projects at Mineral Springs Elementary School,  a Title I school in Winston-Salem where over 90 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunch.

Corporate Volunteer Council to meet November 6

Skill-based volunteering will the focus of the next meeting of the Corporate Volunteer Council in Greensboro. The meeting will be held November 6 from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the Greensboro Science Center at 4301 Lawdale Drive.

LeClair named chief operating officer at The Ivey

Janet LeClair, former vice president of client experience at Infinisource, a human-resources technology company, has been named chief operating officer at The Ivey, a nonprofit memory wellness day center in Charlotte for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions.

Triangle United Way honors three teen girls 

The Women’s Leadership Council at United Way of the Greater Triangle honored three teenage girls for their leadership and community service during the Council’s 11th annual Awards Luncheon and Dessert Auction.

The event raised over $14,000.

Columbus County Community Foundation gives $5,000

The Columbus County Community Foundation has awarded over $5,000 in grants to local nonprofits.

Winston-Salem Foundation gives $324,160

The Winston-Salem Foundation made 17 community grants in September totaling $324,160.

Create a communications advisory board

Whatever the size of your nonprofit or foundation, consider creating an outside advisory board to advise you on your communications.

Some charities have a standing communications board committee, or make communications part of the responsibility either of a standing committee that has other roles as well, or of the entire board.

Whatever the communications role of the board or its committees, an advisory group of outsiders can give you some needed perspective about how to improve the way you are telling your story.

In choosing advisory board members, look for people who understand communications and marketing, who know the community, and who you trust to be candid with you, brutally honest if needed, and who will not simply try to use their service on the advisory board to sell you their own services.

You might consider people who work for a marketing and communications firm, or in the marketing and communications department of a local corporation, foundation or nonprofits; or teach communications at a local college, university or community college; or work at a local newspaper or television station.

Treat the members of your advisory board the same way you would treat your own donors or board of directors. Build relationships with them. Get to know them. Help them know you and your organization.

Meet as often as you need to. Once every month or two would not be too much to ask. And be respectful of the advisory board members’ time.

You might spend the first session or two on general orientation about your overall communications strategy, materials and needs.

And each time you meet, have a specific agenda and goals for what you want to accomplish — from broad strategic issues to specific tactics and immediate needs.

Working with an advisory board can help you improve your communications and engage your target audiences with a more effective message.

Want help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or toddcohen49@gmail.com.

Donor advised fund focuses on Chatham County

By Todd Cohen

[Note: This article was written for Triangle Community Foundation.]

FEARRINGTON VILLAGE, N.C. — Chatham Outreach Alliance, a food bank in Pittsboro, provides a summer feeding program for kids.

Family Violence and Rape Crisis Services, also in Pittsboro, provides services to battered women and sexual assault victims.

And Boys and Girls Clubs of Eastern Piedmont, in Siler City, provides a safe place for young people to learn and grow.

All three nonprofits are among dozens in Chatham County that have received a total of over $1 million since 2008 from the Arthur Carlsen Charitable Fund, a donor advised fund the late Arthur Carlsen established at Triangle Community Foundation to benefit nonprofits based or operating in Chatham County.

“There is a trickle effect of one man’s decision to give, and it’s visible here in Chatham County,” says Carl Thompson, a member of the Foundation’s board of directors and director of continuing education for the Chatham County campus of Central Carolinas Community College “Because of his deep care and concern for his fellow residents, he has made a difference in Chatham  County that continues to grow.”

Thompson spoke September 10 at a reception the Foundation hosted at The Garden Terrace at Fearrington Village to celebrate the milestone the Carlsen Fund has passed in awarding over $1 million grants.

Carlsen, who died in September 2006, one month shy of his 91st birthday, was a retailer who was born in New York City and settled in North Carolina with his wife, Alice Lee Yeats, who predeceased him. He spent his final years in Fearrington Village, had no blood relatives, and left the majority of his accumulated wealth to the Foundation.

He set up the fund to benefit Fearrington Cares, which provides support, services and programs for residents of Fearrington Village, and to support other community organizations.

Grants from the Carlsen Fund have supported direct human services, the arts, food security, and education, among other causes.

Lori O’Keefe, president of Triangle Community Foundation, says the Carlsen Fund reflects the Foundation’s commitment to serving diverse needs in the region.

“While the Foundation has a regional focus on the Triangle, we understand that each community has very diverse qualities that make it unique,” she told 50 guests attending the reception. “It is vital to us that we continue to learn about these specific needs alongside each of you, as our region grows and changes.”

Veronica Hemmingway, senior donor engagement officer at the Foundation, says the Carlsen Fund is one of the largest sources of philanthropy for Chatham County and accounts for roughly half the Foundation’s annual giving to support causes in the county.

The fund also represents one of the few sources of general operating support for nonprofits in the county, she says.

Thompson, who was born and raised in Chatham County and served for 16 years on the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, says that, on paper, the county would seem to be “very prosperous.”

It trails only four of North Carolina’s other 99 counties in per-capita income, for example, while its education level per-capita also ranks among the highest in the state and its unemployment rate among the lowest.

But the the western part of the county is a different story, he says, with much lower income and education per-capita, and slightly higher unemployment.

With growing global competition, he says, parts of the county like Siler City “lost a lot of industry and manufacturing plants,” and are home to “a lot of vacant buildings and lost jobs.”

Nonprofits in the county provide people in need with critical services such as education, including literacy, and basic services such as food, Thompson says.

And while the Carlsen Fund represents one of the county’s largest sources of philanthropy, more support is needed, he says.

“We know we can’t do it alone,” he said at the reception. “The legacy of Arthur Carlsen is strong and impactful, but we need continued support in this community to make his dreams a reality — and enhance the lives of all who live here.”

Aiken retiring from Greensboro Urban Ministry

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — When the Rev. Mike Aiken became its executive director in October 1985, Greensboro Urban Ministry was in financial crisis.

“We were really struggling,” says Aiken, an ordained minister of United Church of Christ who for the previous eight years had served as executive director of Fayetteville Urban Ministry. “We didn’t know if we could meet payroll.”

But the agency turned its finances around and since then has grown significantly in its efforts to serve people in need.

Aiken, who plans to retire on June 30, 2015, says the biggest challenge facing the population the agency serves is homelessness, and he says he will continue to be part of local efforts to end it.

Twenty-nine years ago, Greensboro Urban Ministry served 5,000 to 8,000 people a year and operated with an annual budget of roughly $150,000 and a staff of 20 people.

It operated a food bank and provided emergency assistance for people in need of food and financial assistance for rent and utilities. And it had just opened its Potter’s House community kitchen; its night emergency shelter for single adults, now known as Weaver House; and its Pathways Center family shelter.

Over the years, the number of people all those programs serve have grown, and all now are located in new facilities.

Today, the agency serves 35,000 to 45,000 people a year and operates with an annual budget of nearly $4.9 million and a staff of 35 people working full-time and 30 working part-time.

Over the years, it has added Partnership Village, a housing community for formerly homeless families and individuals that includes 24 three-bedroom units, 12 two-bedroom units and 32 studio units; Urban Ministry Clinic, which still is housed at Greensboro Urban Ministry but now is owned and operated by Triad Adult and Pediatric Medicine; and a chaplaincy program that provides pastoral care to clients, guests, volunteers and staff and includes three staff chaplains, interns from the divinity schools at Wake Forest and Duke universities, and a resident from the Department of Chaplaincy and Pastoral Education at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

Greensboro Urban Ministry also has launched a “rapid rehousing” program, known as Beyond GUM, that puts families and individuals in housing as quickly as possible and provides supportive services as needed.

The agency also is a member of Partners Ending Homelessness, a coalition of of local groups working to end homelessness in Guilford County.

The number of chronically homeless people at any given time fell to just over 100 in September from over 200 in 2007, according to “point-in-time” counts. Chronically homeless people are those who have been homeless multiple times in recent years and have serious disabilities, usually involving mental health or substance abuse. They  represent 15 percent of the homeless population in Guilford County.

And, thanks to a grant from the Phillips Foundation, the partnership now fields a mental health team to work with the chronically homeless.

“Our biggest challenge is completing the game plan and ending homelessness, starting with veterans, then the chronically homeless, then the situational homeless,” says Aiken, who will continue to serve on the partnership’s board of directors. “I’m going to see this through.”

Over half of charities see growth in giving

Fifty-two percent of charities in the U.S. and Canada saw an increase in donations in the first six months of 2014, compared to the same period a year earlier, when over half of charities saw an increase, a new survey says.

The share of charities that posted higher charitable receipts in the first half of 2014 and the first half of 2013 is up from 46 percent that saw increases in the first half of 2012, says the survey by the Nonprofit  Research Collaborative.

Fifty-eight percent of education and arts charities reported increases in funds received, compared to 48 percent of health charities and 49 percent of human services charities, says the survey, which was based on 1,180 responses, including 76 from Canadian charities.

Seventy-five percent of charities surveyed continue to use diversified fundraising strategies, including board giving, major gifts, direct mail, email, foundation proposals and three other methods.

Among education organizations, for example, 58 percent reported growth in major gifts received, compared to 45 percent of all organizations reporting an increase in major gifts.

The share of organizations reporting  growth in funds fell slightly in every subsector, every size group and every region of the country, with bigger declines in human services, in very large organizations and in the South, compared with the same period in 2013.

In the South, 48 percent of organizations raised more in the first six months of 2014, compared to 59 percent in the same period in 2013.

Among organizations with annual budgets of at least $10 million, 47 percent reported growth in charitable receipts, compared to 57 percent in the period last year.

Among human services organizations, 48 percent saw growth in charitable receipts, compared to 52 percent among all organizations.

Among organizations that receive at least half but less than all their philanthropic revenue from the areas they serve, 58 percent reported growth in funds received, compared to 45 percent of organizations that receive less than half of their funds from their service area.

Seventy percent of organizations say they are on track to meet fundraising goals for the fiscal year ending or ended in 2014, down from 77 percent that reported after the first six months of 2013 that they were on track to meet their goals.

The key factor survey participants attributed to fundraising success was organizational capacity for fundraising, including staff availability, board commitment, and realistic goals with a plan for reaching them.

– Todd Cohen