Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What We've Been Working On...

When our group got together recently at Bremer Bank's headquarters in downtown St. Paul, each of us had a chance to share some highlights of what we've been working on in our respective communities. We thought we'd share that update.

Myrna Meadows, NRS, International Falls
Over the summer I helped facilitate discussions for two nonprofits in the International Falls area that merged. It was a great experience and the nonprofits are stronger now together. This marks the first time I’ve led discussions for a merger of two nonprofits and it was very eye-opening.

Julie Vreeland, NRS, Brainerd
I’ve been setting up a series of first Monday lunches for nonprofits in the Brainerd area where we can get together and talk about issues, share stories and much more.

I’m also working with some nonprofits regarding the closing of a thrift store in Brainerd that services many residents. Although there are other options, they are not as conveniently located. Lastly, I’m working with a local group of individuals to help build out a creative retirement services center where we can tap into the brain power of retired executives.

Howard Barlow, NRS, Fargo
Several organizations nonprofit organizations in our community have new executives in leadership positions. It has been exciting to meet these new leaders with new ideas and energy. In Fargo-Moorhead we continue to work on the ever growing homeless issue. There are two new transitional housing facilities opening to help deal with this problem. Another problem is the growing number of homeless youth. A program to begin helping this population is now open. Also the national news has created a misleading picture of our area in terms of the economy and available jobs. Yes, there are jobs but most require higher skills so people moving to Fargo with minimal or no skills will still have problems finding decent jobs with living wages.

Lois Schmidt, NRS, Willmar
We continue to see the shifting in funding in Southwest Minnesota as there continues to be corporate consolidation. For example, some of our local companies may be bought by a national organization that has a different focus in funding and some of our nonprofits suffer from that switch. We are also finding that while there may be more government money available for some programs it is temporary and they are struggling to plan and forecast for the future based on that.

There is a lot more grass roots fundraising taking place such as special events and everyone is being asked to be involved and donate more.

We are seeing several pockets of success in connecting the great people and resources in our statewide organizations like Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN), Nonprofits Assistance Fund (NAF), Minnesota Assn for Volunteer Administrators (MAVA), Women's Foundation of MN (WFM) and more to our Greater MN nonprofits. This happens through relationships we help build between the geographies.

Kathy Grochow, NRS, St. Cloud
We are working with our employees to learn more about financial literacy, so they can go out in the community and talk with individual and families in need through sessions arranged by nonprofits. I continue to have discussions with nonprofits in the St. Cloud area that are working to figure out how to deal with the increase in health care that they will endure for their employees.

In St. Cloud, similar to Fargo, we too have a growing issue of homeless youth. We are working with a local nonprofit that is looking to open another building. There is currently no shelter in St. Cloud for homeless youth.

In my community, we continue to grow in our diversity as more and more immigrants are moving to Minnesota. We continue to have discussions on this and in fact are hosting an Emerging Markets Conference at our Bremer Bank in St. Cloud later this year.

Holly Witt, NRS, Alexandria
We continue to hold trainings with the West Central Initiative and NAF. These trainings have worked well and are very popular with our nonprofits. We have seen a group of 60 nonprofits in the Morris community pull together to share ideas and stories. The group has been meeting regularly and is working on launching a common Web site. This is a very grass roots effort and it is truly amazing to see. We also continue to see a need for grant writing workshops. Nonprofits always have a need to learn how to write grant proposals.

Maltee McMahon, NRS, Wisconsin
We recently completed an all-day grant writing workshop at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, which was a great success. At the workshop, we talked a lot about mastering your 30-second elevator speech regarding your nonprofit. It is very important when talking with funders.

Additionally, we continue to build more partnerships with Wisconsin technical colleges that are interested in the local nonprofits.

Kelly Greenlees, NRS, Grand Forks
We have had a lot of change in our community in the past year and a half. We have some very exciting projects in the works in Grand Forks. One of them is the opening of a Wellness Center that will include everything from exercise to nutrition. Philanthropy has taken off and many businesses and individuals have been very generous in their contributions. It's getting contagious.

Additionally, the local United Way recently completed a needs assessment report and I will be pulling together a convening on that topic in October. We have homeless issues as well with shelters that are over capacity on a nightly basis.

Jerry Stai, NRS, Minot
We have had a large energy and oil boom here in Western North Dakota. It has been very successful and now we are looking at no vacancies in housing and rents are going up fast. That creates some issues for our community. We also need to have more skilled and educated workers come into our community so we are working with some local nonprofits are educational literacy issues.

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