By Lynne Morioka - Contributor

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Beyond the Grant: Blue Cross Foundation helps small nonprofits build capacity

June 23, 2017

Updating database software, strategic planning, evaluation planning – when it comes to foundations and nonprofit organizations, you don’t typically hear much about the nuts and bolts that keep organizations thriving.

But for smaller nonprofit organizations (with annual budgets of $2 million or less), improving organizational capacity is vital to continuing and growing their services.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation  has a focus on advancing health equity.

“We’re working with organizations that are deeply rooted in the communities they serve— small organizations without huge budgets and infrastructure— that make a big impact,” says Allison Corrado, program officer. “Our board understood that building strong nonprofit organizations will help us achieve the health outcomes we hope to see in the communities where these nonprofits are located.”

So, the Foundation partnered with The Saint Paul Foundation Management Improvement Fund, which has the resources and the know-how to assist smaller nonprofit organizations build their internal capacity.

Helping nonprofits grow

The partnership led to the expansion of the Management Improvement Fund grants statewide. This funding can help support a variety of capacity-building activities, such as financial management planning, strategic planning and board development.

“Helping grassroots organizations build capacity to address health equity in their community is key. In a year, they’ll be in a stronger position to achieve their goals,” Corrado says.

“Helping [small nonprofits] build capacity to address health equity in their community is key.”

Renewing the Countryside

One of these organizations is Renewing the Countryside, who, next year, will be celebrating 15 years of working to support vibrant communities through nurturing the intersection of working lands, local foods and rural places in Minnesota.

This small, well-regarded organization prides itself on being efficient and effective with the dollars it has. But, nearly all their funding is project-based or grant-funded, which rarely exceeds more than a few years. The leadership team knew they needed they needed support to move from relying just on grant-based funding.

“We have many goals for continued management improvement, but we feel diversifying and strengthening our development plan will allow us to get less caught up in the time-consuming grant-to-grant wheel and allow us to more strategically move our organization forward,” says Grace Brogan, program and communications manager for Renewing the Countryside.

Receiving funding through the Management Improvement Fund means staff of Renewing the Countryside can diversify their plan, receive training and streamline development work through a more focused board and staff.

“This technical assistance will allow us to have more consistent, ongoing programming for our constituents and staff better able to focus on and serve their needs,” says Brogan.

Building strong, stable nonprofits

Strong, stable nonprofits can better serve and engage their communities. And the Blue Cross Foundation is proud to support their efforts.

“This funding is another strategic way to achieve our mission and make a difference in communities experiencing health inequities. I am proud to support the work of organizations like Renewing the Countryside that are making a healthy difference in their communities.”

More information on this partnership and the Management Improvement Fund grant is available on the St. Paul Foundation website.

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