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Collaborative targets Guilford nonprofits

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By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — After meeting one another in early 2006 at a networking event for local nonprofits and realizing their work overlapped, three Greensboro agencies teamed up to better serve the needs of middle-school students.

Playing matchmaker was the Guilford Nonprofit Consortium, formed in 2004 to create networking and capacity-building opportunities for nonprofits.

“The consortium brings nonprofit staff members together with no other agenda than to help each other and learn from each other,” says Kevin Gray, who was the consortium’s first coordinator and since January 1 has worked full-time as a program officer at the Weaver Foundation.

The consortium grew out of a proposal the Weaver Foundation submitted in late 2002 to Leadership Greensboro for a team of its participants to study how to address local nonprofits’ capacity-building needs.

That idea, studied by a team from the 2003 class of Leadership Greensboro and then by a group of volunteers, led to formation of the consortium, with initial funding by Weaver and five other foundations.

With 150 member organizations and a website at guilfordnonprofits.org, the consortium has held over 20 roundtable discussions for nearly 200 participants, and three workshops for over 200 participants, says Donna Newton, interim coordinator.

Roundtable discussions focus on whatever participants want to talk about, while workshops have examined board development, new revenue sources, and fiscal strategic plans.

The consortium sends members a weekly email that provides a “portal” to nonprofit resources, and features announcements about jobs, events and other information, says Newton.

The group’s website also lets nonprofits publish their need for volunteers, products and services, and lets visitors make donations.

Newton says she and the steering committee are studying the long-term organizational structure and programmatic focus of the consortium, now an informal group supported by a fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro.

Ruth Anderson, the consortium’s vice chair and executive director of The Servant Leadership School of Greensboro, says the consortium has “helped the nonprofit sector come to know one another and we have helped one another.”

Based on conversations at consortium roundtable events, for example, Camp Weaver and The Music Academy of North Carolina now run a summer music camp, while the Hispanic Center in High Point received free computers from the Welfare Reform Liaison Project in Greensboro.

A roundtable conversation also led to development of the middle-school collaborative, whose partners include LL Reid Learning Center, which provides after-school and summer opportunities for low-wealth, economically disadvantaged students; SportsDreams, which works to help girls build self-esteem through athletics; and HandyCapable, which refurbishes computers.

The partnership grew to include several other agencies, and landed a $100,000 state grant to provide tutoring, a self-esteem program and home computers to students in two schools in Greensboro. And it now is seeking $150,000 to expand to two schools in High Point.

The networking event gave the partner agencies “the opportunity to meet collaborative partners we probably would not have known about,” says Judy Wilson, executive director of LL Reid Learning Center.

In addition to boosting their fundraising clout, the partnership also combines the expertise of three distinct agencies, Wilson says.

“When you get strength,” she says, “you can just keep growing.”

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