Harvest: Diversified funds best for agencies

Executive Director Allyson Rothrock (left) presents Barbara Jackman, executive director of the MHC Coalition for Health & Wellness, with the Harvest Award for Nonprofit Excellence on March 12 at the Spencer-Penn Centre. It was the first year of the award,

March 13, 2009

By AMANDA BUCK - Martinsville Bulletin Staff Writer

Harvest Foundation officials urged area nonprofit leaders Thursday to strengthen their organizations by relying on diverse funding sources as they work to improve the area’s quality of life.

Part of Harvest’s new strategic plan, which was unveiled during a daylong seminar at the Spencer-Penn Centre, calls on grantees to strive for sustainability and diversity in funding, said Allyson Rothrock, Harvest’s executive director.

“In other words, don’t ask us — or any other organization — for 100 percent” of the funds needed to operate, she said.

That does not mean Harvest is discouraging organizations from coming to it for funding, Rothrock said. Rather, “it means it’s not wise for nonprofits to depend on one funder for all of their needs,” she said. “It makes a program much stronger if they have multiple funding sources.”

Harvest, which was formed with proceeds from the sale of Memorial Hospital in 2002, works to improve the quality of life in Henry County and Martinsville through grants and support to its grantees.

Rothrock said that in the foundation’s early years, many area organizations were not accustomed to looking for other funding sources. Helping them do that is part of what Harvest wants to do, she said.

“We want our nonprofits to find other people to partner with them, along with us, so they’re more well known and they have more opportunities,” she said.

If a program does not fit with Harvest’s mission and cannot be funded, Harvest officials will try to help the nonprofits find other foundations or sources of funding whenever possible, she added.

Stronger, sustainable nonprofits will benefit Harvest in the long run because they will help the foundation accomplish its mission, which will help the community, Rothrock said.

During the event, Jeffrey Mansour, senior program officer with the foundation, presented the new strategic plan to more than 160 representatives of local nonprofit groups during the event.

Harvest officials spent much of the last year developing the three-year plan, which he said is designed to guide Harvest’s decision-making. The organization’s previous strategic plan was more than five years old and needed to be updated, he added.

The previous plan divided Harvest’s program areas into three categories: health, education and welfare. The new plan replaces welfare with “community vitality,” which Mansour said better reflects the aim of grants in that category.

Each program area is divided into priority areas and focus areas. For example, the community vitality priority areas are economic and community development, quality of life and family independence. Each priority has a goal, and nonprofits that are interested in applying for funding can look to those goals to determine if their proposals coincide with Harvest’s aims, Mansour indicated.

Mansour oversees the community vitality program area.

Under education, the priority areas are academic, career readiness and youth projects, all of which are overseen by program officer Angela Logan.

The health area, managed by Nancy Cox, includes priority areas of prevention and access to health care.

Following Mansour’s presentation, Logan addressed Harvest’s new guidelines for grant applications. Rather than the quarterly deadlines the organization used to follow, the process now is rolling, with no defined deadlines, she said.

Logan said the change is designed to cut down on work for applicants. In the past, applicants completed a “labor-intensive” process to apply for a grant, sometimes only to find out that their proposal was not something Harvest would consider.

The new process calls for nonprofits to begin by calling a program officer to discuss their ideas. From there, they would have a meeting and then, if they were invited to do so, the nonprofit would submit a program summary, followed by a full proposal. Program staff would present the proposals to Harvest’s board, which will make all final decisions about grants, Logan said.

Lobbying board members is prohibited, she said.

Rothrock said the changes are designed to make the application process easier for those interested in Harvest funding, and to ensure that grant proposals align with the foundation’s mission and strategic plan.

Also at Thursday’s event, Rothrock presented Barbara Jackman, executive director of the Martinsville/Henry County Coalition for Health & Wellness, with the first Harvest Award for Nonprofit Excellence.

The coalition received the award for outstanding performance in leadership, governance, management, service delivery and outcomes and having definitive plans for advancing the organization over time.

Harvest established the award to recognize, celebrate, promote and inspire excellence in the area’s nonprofit sector. Only organizations serving the Martinsville/Henry County community can be considered for the award, according to Rothrock.


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