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Strategic support

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By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — As part of its effort to play a more strategic role in fighting domestic violence, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem has undertaken a series of initiatives to help strengthen nonprofits working on the issue.

The foundation, which last year contracted with consultant Leslie Starsoneck to help develop its domestic-violence strategy, now has agreed to pay two consulting groups to help five nonprofits fighting domestic violence strengthen their fundraising operations.

The foundation also is funding a study to identify alternative funding streams for domestic-violence groups.

And as an early step in assessing advocacy on domestic violence issues at the state level, the foundation is evaluating software used in another state to collect data on the cost of domestic violence, and also will try to determine what hardware would be needed to run that software.

Consultants Bert Armstrong and Tom McGuire of Philanthropic Advisory Group, and Gail Perry of Perry & Associates, all in Raleigh, will work with five nonprofits for one year on a pilot basis to build their fundraising capacity and strategy.

The consultants, for example, will work with the nonprofits’ boards to help them understand their role in fundraising, and will help the organizations think through a variety of fundraising strategies such as events, individual fundraising and annual drives, says Tom Ross, the foundation’s executive director.

That approach to supporting domestic-violence groups marks a shift for the foundation, which in the past has funded many of the roughly 90 individual agencies, mainly in response to applications they submitted separately for grants.

“It was not as strategic or thoughtful as it might have been,” Ross says. “We want to be extremely intentional.”

The pilot project with the five nonprofits is designed to help the foundation “think of a way to intervene that helps all programs, as opposed to making grants to some organizations from time to time,” he says. “It’s a different approach to trying to provide the organizations with the resources they need.”

If the consulting helps the five nonprofits generate big increases in their fundraising, he says, the foundation might consider similar support for more nonprofits.

The consultants will be working with Oasis in Boone, Families Living Violence Free in Oxford, Orange County Rape Crisis Center in Chapel Hill, Harbor in Smithfield, and My Sister’s House in Rocky Mount.

The foundation also has contracted with Joel Rosch, a senior research scientist at the Center for Child Development and Family Policy in the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke University, to spend six months identifying federal and state government funding sources that domestic-violence agencies in the past may not have known about or pursued fully.

“If there are other funding streams, and there are barriers we think we can break down,” Ross says, the foundation then will consider how to help agencies better tap those funds.

The data-collection project, scheduled to take two to three months, aims to identify technology tools to help agencies be more effective in securing needed resources.

“What a good advocate would need to justify further funding is good data to show what the cost of domestic violence is to communities, whether the cost of legal services or medical care or lost time from employment,” Ross says. “We believe there’s a very high cost. If we can collect data that’s credible to show costs, we can make the case for further support stronger.”

The costs of data-collection systems may require partners such as state government, Ross says.

“The foundation can’t do it itself,” he says.

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