Nonprofits leaders get answers at summit

The event organizer recently gave more than $ 1 million to local nonprofit organizations.



WARREN — More and more outstretched hands, less and less public support.

That’s the dilemma facing many Mahoning Valley nonprofit organizations.

So, how does one do more with less?

Providing answers to that question and others was the objective of the Wean Foundation’s first Nonprofit Community Summit, held Monday at the Avalon Inn.

Nearly 400 local nonprofit sector leaders from Trumbull and Mahoning counties attended the summit, aimed at building the capacity of local not-for-profit agencies to serve their communities.

Attendees heard expert advice on topics from the state budget process to managing capital campaigns. Keynote speaker Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann lectured the group on financial filing practices that maximize a nonprofit organization’s probability of receiving government assistance.

Among the most popular of the 14 developmental workshops was a lecture called “Fundraising Basics,” according to Wean Foundation President Joel Ratner. Interest in the program surpassed seating capacity, Ratner said.

“There’s definitely an interest in how, as some resources diminish, do we develop in the future,” Ratner said.

That morning, Cleveland-based consultant Steve Bullock was the man with the answers. The former acting president of the national organization of the American Red Cross told listeners to develop a board of directors capable of leading the revenue-generating efforts of their organization. Also important, he said, is creating internal passion about the group’s mission.

“If you believe in it,” Bullock said, “you can sit with anyone and say, ‘This is so critical, and by the way, this is what we’ve done, and we need your support.’”

In the audience were three representatives of Stepping Into The Future Inc., a community outreach organization begun only 18 months ago. The organization works to connect the Youngstown’s South Side residents with pubic assistance, computer training and optical care. It’s ultimate goal is to lift people out of poverty and place them on a path to self-sufficiency.

But the need can feel overwhelming, said Sharon Armour, a program director.

Armour, program assistant Wanda Thomas, and volunteer Lillian DeFrance attended a workshop devoted to anti-poverty organizations. The three said they planned to incorporate the suggestions offered by summit speakers in the operation of their organization.

“It seems as though the more people we help, the more people we find that are still in poverty,” she said. “We’re trying to find a way to cut back on those numbers.”

Though no newcomer to the local nonprofit scene, Sister Jerome Corcoran said the event left her feeling excited and hopeful. Corcoran is the founder of the Mill Creek Children’s Center, an organization that provides preschool education to children of working families. She has served as its director for 23 years.

“The opening session gave a feeling of kind of awe,” she said. “The Wean Foundation is recognizing the financial needs of people that have the ability, but need help in pursuing their particular way of helping the poor.”

The Wean Foundation recently committed to dedicating its $4 million in annual giving almost exclusively to Mahoning Valley organizations. The $90 million foundation announced last week that almost two-dozen local nonprofits would benefit from its first-quarter giving, totaling more than $1 million.

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