N.C. Center for Nonprofits lends helping hand

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — With growing pressure to deliver services, raise money, meet government rules and operate effectively, nonprofits in North Carolina increasingly turn to the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits.

The membership organization, which aims to serve nonprofits of all sizes looking for training, technical assistance and consulting, has enrolled nearly 1,600 members in all 100 counties of the state since opening its doors 13 years ago this month.

“Our goal is to help them lead and manage their organizations effectively and achieve their mission while saving them time and money,” says Jane Kendall, the group’s president and founder.

The state has an estimated 23,000 operating charitable nonprofits, plus nearly 1,900 private foundations, although only about one-third of the operating nonprofits have annual operating expenses of $25,000 or more, she says.

With a staff of 15 people and an annual budget of $1.58 million, nearly one-third of it from dues and fees, and the remainder from foundation, corporate and individual contributions, the center provides services on its own and delivers others through partnerships.

Through its helpline at (919) 790-1550, ext. 220, for example, the center has responded to more than 54,000 calls about leadership and management practices.

“We try to either know the answer to their question or know where they can find it,” Kendall says.

The center’s website at ncnonprofits.org, which includes a popular “frequently asked questions” feature on nonprofit topics, attracted more than 23,000 unique visitors in the three months through May, for example, when visitors downloaded more than 9,000 articles and sample policies on topics such as employment and conflicts of interest.

The center may refer callers to pro-bono programs it has helped develop that are offered through the North Carolina Bar Association and the North Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants, or to consultants used and recommended by other nonprofits.

And through its own training programs and those offered in collaboration with other groups, the center has provided nearly 1,200 seminars and workshops attended by nearly 46,200 nonprofit board and staff leaders.

In May, for example, the center and the Association of CPAs held their 10th annual conference on nonprofit accounting, while in June the center teamed up with the Charlotte chapter of the Public Relations Society of America to offer a two-hour luncheon program for nonprofits.

And the center will hold its 10th annual conference Oct 5-7 in Charlotte, an event that was held in the Triangle last year and attracted more than 1,000 people.

In the face of rising scrutiny of nonprofits, the center three years ago published Standards for Excellence, a detailed checklist available in English and Spanish that nonprofits can use to make sure they are complying with government regulations and good governance practices.

Kendall says the biggest challenges for nonprofits are ongoing and include achieving their mission, building and engaging effective boards, raising money, and strengthening their organizational capacity and matching it to meet needs.

The center also is looking for ways to spur nonprofit leadership on critical issues facing the state, and to help nonprofit staff, boards and volunteers renew themselves in the face of burnout and stress.

“Nonprofits are private entrepreneurs in the public interest” and are “uniquely positioned to help create a new kind of conversation in our society about addressing problems,” Kendall says. “But there’s so much stress on people, it’s hard to keep looking very far ahead.”

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