By Todd Cohen
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When she was working on her dissertation on nonprofit evaluation at the State University of New York at Albany, Joanne Carman twice traveled five hours round-trip by train to New York City to use materials at the Cooperating Collection of nonprofit and grants materials provided by The Foundation Center.
Today, as an assistant professor at UNC-Charlotte who teaches nonprofit courses in the master’s program in public administration, Carman simply can refer students to the Foundation Center’s Cooperating Collection downtown.
The collection, which includes roughly 500 volumes plus access to an online grants database and has been housed since 1984 at the offices of The Duke Endowment, was transferred Nov. 1 to the Main Library of the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County.
“It’s an excellent resource for the community, and it’s great that they’re improving access,” says Carman.
The collection, located on the second floor of the Main Library in the information services department near the reference desk, is open 71 hours a week, including 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
The collection includes printed materials from The Foundation Center, supplemented by materials purchased by the Endowment, that cover a broad range of nonprofit topics, says Marilyn MacKenzie, who served as librarian of the collection at the Endowment and is senior administrative assistant in its child-care division.
Topics range from starting a nonprofit, developing a strategic plan, setting up a development office, working with a board and writing grant proposals to planned giving and nonprofit law and accounting, MacKenzie says.
“If a small nonprofit had to set up this sort of resource, they couldn’t afford it,” she says.
While at The Duke Endowment, MacKenzie says, the collection attracted roughly 400 visitors a year, mainly to use the online grants database.
Visitors ranged from people starting up charter schools, churches looking for funding, parents seeking support for their children’s schools, and a lot of smaller nonprofits.
Joyce Brooks, director of development and communications for Regional AIDS Interfaith Network, says she uses the collection four to six times a year, exclusively for grants research.
“It was always the first place that I would go to start my research,” she says.
Staff assistance is helpful in narrowing the search, she says, and information easily can be saved on a disc for later use.
Brooks, who as a consultant also provides grantwriting training, says she has referred hundreds of people to the collection.
Susan Herzog, senior library manager for the Main Library, says librarians can assist people using the collection and database, which is accessible at all computers throughout the Main Library with internet access.
The library is considering providing remote access in other locations, and has scheduled a Dec. 5 workshop on using the collection and database, as well as eCivis, a web-based subscription database of federal and state funding opportunities.
“The whole collection,” Herzog says, “is an essential tool for any nonprofit organization.”
The Foundation’s Center’s Cooperating Collection also is located at county public libraries in Asheville, Durham, Raleigh, Wilmington and Winston-Salem.