It's been a remarkable year of growth and change for the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and its rapidly expanding Nonprofit Resource Center. Since moving into the Leila and Michael Gompertz Center on Fruitville Road in August 2004, the Community Foundation-Florida's second largest, with assets of $125 million-has become an even greater, more tangible resource.
Within the new Mediterranean-style building are two state-of-the-art conference spaces that already have been used by 60 different organizations, mostly nonprofit agencies. Among the sessions were a weeklong middle management training program for Sarasota County government; a workshop for county commissioners; and meetings of organizations such as SCOPE, West Coast Black Theatre Troupe, United Way, the American Cancer Society, Civic League, Junior League, Latin Chamber of Commerce, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Catholic Charities and American Jewish Committee.
When you count the Community Foundation's own Legacy Society programs, more than 7,000 people already have enjoyed over 800 hours of instruction, socializing and enrichment in the new Gompertz Center. Most importantly, in this functional and attractive home, the Community Foundation is better equipped than ever to help nonprofit organizations increase their capacity and effectiveness. When charities perform their jobs more efficiently and professionally, it helps fulfill the Community Foundation's mission to make charitable giving work for the entire community.
Christie Lewis, vice president of nonprofit capacity building, likens the effect of these opportunities to ripples on water. "When you throw a stone in a pond, ripples emerge from the entry point," she notes. "In our case, the stone represents the programming and services of the Nonprofit Resource Center, which makes a ripple first at the individual level then spreads that ripple out to the organization level. It then moves even wider, out into the community."
When the charities they support are healthy, donors know their dollars are well spent. From August 2004 to June 1, 2005, the Nonprofit Resource Center provided 48 different workshops-everything from managing volunteers to sharpening board skills and creating effective Web sites-to 1,054 attendees representing 325 individual community organizations.
The Nonprofit Resource Center maintains a library that houses more than 650 books and periodicals, lists of workshops, computer classes and referral services. Organizations can access FC Search, a product of the Foundation Center, which is a searchable database of more than 76,000 foundations, corporate givers, grant-making public charities and their recent grants. They also can peruse the complete library of BoardSource publications, videos and multimedia products, as well as other local and national funding directories, annual giving reports and guidelines.
The center also enhances nonprofit management by providing training in leadership, governance, fund raising and development, human resources and management and a host of other areas. Its conference rooms are equipped with such high-tech features as an electronic white board and 3-D document camera.
In addition, peer-to-peer sessions provide nonprofit executive directors and staff with helpful networking, coaching and guidance.
TRAINING THE NEXT GENERATION OF LEADERS
The Nonprofit Resource Center also helps train the next generation of nonprofit leaders through its Board Bank. This free service connects talented professionals in Sarasota and Manatee with boards and/or committees that need quality volunteer leaders. In this way, the center increases the pool of skilled and enthusiastic candidates, broadens the diversity on local boards, cultivates community networks, enhances corporate social responsibility and allows nonprofits to fulfill their missions.
The Board Bank is a result of a collaborative partnership with the Nonprofit Resource Center and the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Sarasota County and Young Professionals Group. Its two-day training initiative, "Get On Board: Leadership Engagement Training," is offered twice a year in the spring and fall.
And watch for news this year about Nonprofit Resource Consulting Services, an exciting new consulting service from the Nonprofit Resource Center that will give nonprofits added management and organizational development support.
For more information on any of the Nonprofit Resource Center's programs, visit www.sarasota-foundation.org or contact Christie Lewis at (941) 955-3000, or [email protected] You can subscribe to the center's electronic newsletter or make an appointment to use the resource library by e-mailing Cassie Grove at [email protected]astnonprofits.org.
The Community Foundation made other exciting growth strides this year. It completed the requirements for national accreditation, fulfilling 38 different national standards. "The standards go into the heart of an organization and make sure that it is, in fact, not only administratively and fiscally sound, but also that it has its policies and procedures in order to run effectively and efficiently," explains Stewart Stearns, Community Foundation president and CEO.
As part of its strategic plan, the Community Foundation also upgraded its technology base in the Gompertz Center. High-tech conference facilities, IP-based phones and security system and computerized heating and air-conditioning systems have improved efficiency and streamlined operations. Also, the Manatee Community Foundation, a partner of the Community Foundation, is now linked to virtual online services. With Internet upgrades, donors can now make online contributions, access their fund data, and will soon be able to make grant requests online.
In the area of grants and scholarships, the Community Foundation made good use of sizeable new gifts and rolled out innovative initiatives such as the Nobbe Educational Enrichment program, which supports a wide range of educational activities for children. The Nobbe Teacher Loan Payback Awards, a first for this community and quite possibly the nation, awarded 38 Sarasota County teachers the first renewable grants to help repay undergraduate school loans. Created in cooperation with the Sarasota County School District, this creative initiative can be used for the hiring and retention of high-quality, home-grown teachers. Several other new scholarships were blended seamlessly into the Community Foundation this year, including a comprehensive non-traditional scholarship program that makes it possible for adults who spent time in the "real world" following high school to further their higher education and career training.
The Disaster Relief Fund of the Community Foundation was put to work after the 2004 hurricanes and culminated with a grant enabling the Red Cross to open a permanent office in Arcadia, addressing the DeSoto County community's dire need for quick reaction time in the case of future emergencies.
"From all perspectives, the Community Foundation is reaching new heights that none of us could have dreamed of," enthuses Stearns. With $10 million to $12 million in new funds coming into the foundation each year, and the breadth and scope of programs and scholarships growing exponentially, the year ahead will be one to watch with great anticipation.