In a survey released in May, Springfield-area nonprofit leaders signaled that they needed help. Community Foundation of the Ozarks Inc. has responded.
At the invitation of CFO, the Network for Strong Communities, a St. Louis-based capacity-building organization for nonprofits, opened a Springfield satellite office at the Efactory in mid-October.
Nikki Reynolds, program coordinator for the Springfield NSC, said she has been working closely with CFO to learn about local nonprofits and their needs.
“It’s been a lot of networking and making sure that people know we’re here,” she said.
The results of the spring study commissioned by CFO showed a trend toward an exodus of nonprofit executives. Only 17% of executive directors or CEOs of local nonprofits said they could envision staying in their current jobs four years or more, with 7% planning to leave within three months; 14% within six months; 12% within a year; 30% within two years; and 20% within four years.
Springfield Business Journal reported on this trend in July 2021, prompted by top-level turnovers at I Pour Life, Care to Learn, Child Advocacy Center Inc. and Price Cutter Charity Championship.
A year later, CFO President Brian Fogle said the last 18 months had seen 18 CEO or executive director changes. The survey his organization commissioned was intended to pinpoint the challenges that led them to vacate their roles.
Those nonprofit leaders now have a place to turn for help with some of the challenges in their roles.
“We believe NSC’s arrival creates tremendous possibilities for our nonprofit community, as it offers a range of services and resources that can help all types of nonprofits better pursue their missions,” said Aaron Scott, CFO’s director of communications and marketing.
Scott said CFO has provided $180,000 to NSC for a scholarship program and startup support for its new office.
NSC is itself a nonprofit organization, and it charges for services, though generally at a cost that is 30%-40% lower than for-profit agencies, according to Reynolds.
Scott said NSC provides support services such as bookkeeping and human resources, and for tasks like filing federal form 990s required of tax-exempt organizations or preparing grant reports.
The Springfield office has two workers: Reynolds and Laura Winstead, who is administrative services coordinator. It receives some financial support from CFO, Scott said.
“If a nonprofit is trying to handle all of that type of stuff in house, especially a small or relatively new nonprofit, that takes away the staff’s capacity to pursue their missions, which are to help people and focus on making community improvements that they really exist to do,” he said.
CFO has long provided an agency partner program for its partner organizations, Scott said.
“We provide a certain level of services and support, but there’s only so much we can do on our end,” he said. “I think we’ve always wanted to do more, but then we have capacity issues of our own.”
Reynolds said the NSC has three components: consultative, administrative and educational. She heads up the educational component, with workshops on areas of interest and need.
She said Diane Drollinger, NSC’s St. Louis-based CEO, offers free 30-minute consultations for any organization that requests one.
Reynolds offered a few examples of the way the NSC can help.
“Maybe your bookkeeper is going out for maternity leave for a few months, and you don’t want to do a hire – we can fill that gap,” she said. “If you need someone to do your QuickBooks once a month, we can help, and we also do website management, a little bit of graphic design, bookkeeping or account services.”
Answering the call
CFO began looking at the feasibility of bringing a capacity-building organization like NSC to town in late 2020, Scott said. A committee was convened, and the nonprofit leader survey was commissioned.
“The results of that survey pointed to the fact that there was a great need for a capacity-building organization in Springfield and the Ozarks,” Scott said.
It also showed a willingness of nonprofit agencies to support the NSC.
Stephanie Brady, executive director of the nonprofit Community Clinic of Southwest Missouri in Joplin, was one member of the CFO committee.
“A lot of the nonprofits in the area regularly have needs that the NSC is going to be able to help fulfill, whether that be contracted services like HR and accounting or whether that is looking at providing one-on-one support for the leadership teams,” she said. “We have all been dealing with shortages in funding and fundraising shortfalls, and executive coaching and leadership support will help with that as well.”
Brady said the committee examined nonprofit service centers that were available and the stream of services they could offer, and the NSC looked like the ideal fit.
“They have a really great track record of support for nonprofits,” she said.
One of the areas the committee was particularly interested in was nonprofit burnout, Brady said.
“Being able to provide that executive coaching through NSC hopefully will help nonprofit leaders take advantage of that and reduce stress, anxiety and burnout by having some new approaches,” she said.
Reynolds said she’d received over 40 applications before the Nov. 30 deadline for the first set of 10 capacity-building scholarships being offered by CFO. The first round of scholarships is for organizations that have been established at least three years and have a focus on the needs of women and children. Scholarship recipients will get free consultation services and access to NSC workshops.
Reynolds said NCS’s services are timely for organizations.
“We’ve had a crazy two years,” she said. “We’ve been so remote and disconnected, and there’s been a lot of turnover and burnout within nonprofits. There are a lot of new people in leadership positions.”
While it is a great time for organizations to explore new ideas, there are also challenges that come with having new leaders, Reynolds said.
“We offer training for those entry-level people,” she said. “Just educating them is going to be so important.”
Reynolds said the Springfield office has not yet served any agencies in its month and a half of operation but instead has spent the time learning about local organizations and fielding questions about services.
The congregation at Crossway Baptist Church is building a children’s wing at the west end of the church, and beginning in 2024, it will be home to a Christian academy.