Investing in Tools to Help Nonprofits Thrive Over the Long Term

Oct 26, 2016

The mission of our Center for Nonprofit Excellence is to provide high-quality, low-cost training and resources that help Fairfield County nonprofits build capacity, and make a greater impact. This conversation with Jeniam Foundation’s Executive Director Tripp Killin, originally published on the Hearst CT News Blog, explores the concept of how investing philanthropic funds in nonprofit infrastructure can yield exponential results.

When it comes to philanthropy, Tripp Killin believes in dreaming big. As Executive Director of the Jeniam Foundation, his goal is to partner with his Trustees to make the largest impact possible – by investing in tools that help nonprofits across Fairfield County build their reach, strength and effectiveness.

“It’s not enough to have a nonprofit to fund,” Killin tells fellow donors. “You need good nonprofits to fund. And you don’t get good nonprofits for free.”

When growing nonprofits, don’t reinvent the wheel

At first glance, the nonprofits supported through the Jeniam Foundation may appear vastly different from one another, as Jeniam supports organizations in the arts, environment and education. But these organizations have something in common, which is the need to increase the skills and knowledge of their employees.

“Many have great needs around employee development, training and retention,” says Killin. “But they are relatively small, and don’t have their own Human Resource functions and training options.”

That’s where Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s Center for Nonprofit Excellence (CNE) comes in. Jeniam’s founder, the late Andrew Clarkson, believed that developing nonprofit infrastructure was a powerful way to invest philanthropic funds. Today, one of the ways Jeniam’s Board of Trustees carry out Clarkson’s vision is by funding the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, recognizing its value as a high-quality, centralized resource to help local nonprofits build capacity.

“We’ve always been interested in these capacity issues, but we’ve also been interested in not reinventing the wheel,” says Killin. “We see the Center for Nonprofit Excellence as the employee development and enrichment function of organizations that are too small to have their own.”

As he gets to know new nonprofits, Killin regularly routes them to CNE workshops that address common organizational challenges. For instance, many nonprofits struggle to develop a strong board. A regularly-offered Center for Nonprofit Excellence workshop led by senior BoardSource consultant Chuck Loring, one of the country’s leading authorities, offers Fairfield County nonprofit board members training on effective governance and fundraising.

“This has been an invaluable resource for nonprofit board members,” says Killin. “The workshop was one of the best things that I have attended in all my years of working with the nonprofit sector.”

Helping nonprofits thrive over the long term

Recently, the Jeniam Foundation partnered with the Center for Nonprofit Excellence on a program that helps nonprofits address another urgent need: tackling technology upgrades.

In today’s digital world, up-to-date technology is a “must” for effectively engaging with donors. Yet, in 2014, the Center for Effective Philanthropy reported that 77% of nonprofit leaders surveyed felt that leveraging technology to increase their organization’s effectiveness was one of their major challenges.

Now, a new CNE Strategic Technology Program funded through the Jeniam Foundation enables participating nonprofits to analyze their IT needs and develop a technology plan to meet those needs. Additionally, through Jeniam’s support, the Center for Nonprofit Excellence awarded funding to the first cohort of participating nonprofits to actually implement their IT plans.

Killin is optimistic that the Strategic Technology Program will take root and make a significant impact for nonprofits across Fairfield County.

“My hope is that this program will not only help my grantees that are enrolled now, but will be viable longer term at the Community Foundation,” he says.

To Jeniam’s Trustees, this program represents what effective philanthropy is all about: investing in a framework that will help nonprofits grow and thrive over the long term.

“Good organizations are better than bad organizations,” says Killin. “Good organizations don’t come for free. The good news is, it’s really not that expensive to make them better.”

Help build stronger local nonprofits. Learn how you can support our Center for Nonprofit Excellence.

Together we thrive.