Summit Connects Non-Profits for Networking and Education

Melanie Barr of the Pleasant Street Historic Society had never thought about teaming up with another nonprofit group to expand her reach into the community.

But after attending a summit put on by the Nonprofit Center of North Central Florida and meeting Katherine Wood of the Alachua Pace Center for Girls, she is.

Barr and Wood are now planning for middle-schoolers at Pace, a specialized school for girls, to participate in the historical society’s essay contest, Standing on the Shoulders.

Collaborations like this are among the results the nonprofit center hoped its first summit would produce, says Executive Director Chris Johnson.

“So many nonprofits collaborate only with those in their area of the nonprofit sector—or, in silos,” he says. Now they have opportunities to extend beyond their silos and expand their impact on the community.

The nonprofit center, started in October 2010, decided to hold the summit, titled The Spirit of Collaboration, after a survey showed many nonprofits wanted to build relationships.

The event, held at the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center, attracted 160 people from 90 organizations. Participants also included business owners, who used the event to meet potential customers among the nonprofits’ executives.

Activities included small-group sessions focusing on sharing resources and exchanging ideas.

Pat Bartlett of Gainesville Rabbit Rescue says she was excited to learn about the thousands of networking possibilities that are available. For example, Wood says she learned about a new method of fundraising, Crowdrise.com, which offers help with online fundraising and social networking.

The summit helped local nonprofits by expanding their knowledge of fundraising and explaining inexpensive ways to get additional training, says Vidya Hogan of Elder Options. “We don’t have the money that private organizations have,” she says.

The summit led Sandi Richmond of No More Homeless Pets to consider fundraising collaboratively with other groups. Her organization and Southwest Advocacy Group have partnered to reach out to lower-income neighborhoods to educate them about the “spay and neuter” service provided by No More Homeless Pets, she says.

Timothy Treweek of Duke Insurance Agency, an event sponsor, says his company likes supporting the nonprofit center’s work. Beyond the satisfaction of helping charitable groups, the event provided visibility and an opportunity to explain the insurance options he can provide, he says.

Johnson says many participants have told him they made connections that will help them become more successful. In fact, the leaders of Duffels of Love, an emerging nonprofit that will provide foster children a pre-packed duffel bag containing necessities and personal items, told him that the summit helped them lay the foundation for their organization.

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