Help for non-profits

Seminar teaches strategies for changing the world

The business of changing the world takes a team effort.

On May 25, the Blount Chamber Foundation, the Center for Strong Communities at Maryville College and United Way of Blount County organized the Nonprofit Community Collaboration’s seminar that attracted 85 representatives from 55 different nonprofit and faith-based organizations.

The theme for the seminar was “The Business of Changing the World,” and organizers said they hoped participants learned lessons that will help them do just that - change the world. Topics ranged from networking and cultivating relationships to staff policies for nonprofits.

Janet Kite with The Children’s Center of Knoxville, Inc., said she found the information to be immediately relevant.

“Out of all of the trainings we have attended, this was one of the most pertinent, appropriate and beneficial,” Kite said. “We have already begun reviewing our job application to make sure we are asking for legal and accurate information, and we are using the sample policies that we received to update our existing policies.”

For Kevin Painter, managing partner for LeConte Wealth Management, presenting at the seminar was about nonprofit sustainability.

“The takeaway from this is that it is a very challenging environment out there,” Painter said. “We’re coming out of a recession. It’s going to be increasingly difficult for nonprofits to raise money because of the economic downturn.”

Painter believes that nonprofits can protect themselves in the current economy through diversification.

“Nonprofits that have relied on funding sources in the past need to be prepared that those funding sources may not be there in the future,” Painter said. “Diversification of your donor base is paramount now more than ever. You have to be creative in finding new ways to fund your organization.”

Bishop James E. Swanson with the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church delivered a keynote address, noting that empowerment, collaboration and self-care were also critical to nonprofits being able to continue forth with their missions.

“You can’t help me if you don’t take care of yourself,” Bishop Swanson said. “Sometimes you need to call a time-out and reassess because you may have gotten to the point where you’re running around in circles.”

Bishop Swanson also stressed that collaboration is key. “Sometimes you get so isolated doing this kind of work because most of the time, there are no office hours. It is when I wake up to when I go to sleep. It consumes you and eats you up, and every moment of every instance you’re trying to decide, ‘What more can I do?’ in order to achieve the goals and objectives in front of you,” he said.

President and CEO for United Way of Blount County Michelle Hankes was very pleased with the seminar she helped organize.

“Not only was attendance for the seminar at one of its highest, I also heard from many of the participants that it offered some of the best and most useful workshops in its four-year history,” Hankes said.

Hankes said she was particularly pleased with the diversity of the participants: volunteers and staff; environmental and social issues; secular and religious-based agencies; long-time supporters and those new on the job. “That combination of people means the exchange of ideas steps up to a whole new level,” she said.

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