While unfortunately our society is encouraging each of us to become suspicious of and often to not trust one another with important facts or feelings, the nonprofit world has discovered that collaborating with other nonprofit and governmental agencies can prove to be quite successful. This transition to sharing resources, and often clients, is a fairly recent practice – a practice that is gaining momentum and approval for a number of exciting reasons.
Why? Who benefits? What’s the risk?
Here are some simple ideas to ponder: Nonprofits have discovered that if they share resources they can become even more efficient and more effective. They can, more often than not, significantly multiply services for their respective clients. And because of increases in services, we ALL benefit. Having our local nonprofits collaborate means more outcomes that positively impact local individuals and families in very profound ways. These collaborative efforts are changing more lives in the process, resulting in minimal risk to those agencies and greater outcomes for their clients. In fact, the risk is actually greater for those agencies that are NOT part of a local collaboration. Increasingly, nonprofit funders are also looking for collaborative approaches to dealing with community issues, and some are even demanding it. Here at United Way of the Cape Fear Area, collaboration is a critical component that our volunteers look for when evaluating funding proposals. UWCFA now invests locally in multiple collaborative efforts in all three of our key Impact Areas: health, education and financial stability.
As a community, we are fortunate to have the number and quality of nonprofits in the Cape Fear area. As resources seem to be increasingly difficult to come by, many nonprofits have discovered that collaborating allows them to stretch and even multiply those resources. United Way’s 10 Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness has worked with local direct-service nonprofits to help reduce the number of chronically homeless individuals over the past seven years. One specific initiative has included medical respite care for homeless individuals who are discharged from New Hanover Regional Medical Center. This program has prevented costly return trips to the NHRMC emergency department.
Another initiative assists homeless individuals and helps them navigate through and apply for disability benefits. This program, in place for almost three years, has resulted in more than 100 homeless individuals receiving stable incomes, and has assisted them in locating a medical “home,” something many of them have never had. Both of these programs have been successful because multiple nonprofits are working together and providing specific services for those who need them most.
One of United Way’s most remarkable collaborative efforts was begun almost eight years ago and is now held as a best practice in our collaborative process. Cape Fear Health Net (CFHN) now encompasses six nonprofit partners and has brought together area “free clinics.” This partnership allows for resources to be shared that benefit local under-insured residents. In addition, we are finding that the multiplying of resources generated from having such a significant relationship is extremely appealing to numerous private and public funders. Because of this collaborative’s growth and success, and continual increase in health-related outcomes, CFHN receives the largest United Way investment annually from the Community Impact Fund.
There are other collaboratives that United Way of the Cape Fear Area has helped to establish. All of these have received support through the UWCFA Community Impact Fund and are a direct result of the UWCFA Collective Community Impact Agenda. This effort continues to seek out the most serious community issues in the areas of health, education and financial stability, and invests in local programs that produce the most meaningful outcomes. Investments by UWCFA are made for three years, which allows these programs to use the UWCFA investments as leverage for other resources and to garner additional funding.
For a more in-depth look into the UWCFA Community Impact process and more examples of how the Community Impact Fund is helping local people, please call us or visit our website at uwcfa.org. With your help, the Community Impact Fund can go even further, creating more exciting collaborations that will help more in need, right here in our own backyards.
Christopher L. Nelson is president of the United Way of the Cape Fear Area, a local nonprofit organization. Since 1941, the United Way of the Cape Fear Area has worked alongside local agencies in Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover and Pender counties to assist them in providing substantial and sustainable change within the Cape Fear area. To learn more about the United Way of the Cape Fear Region, go to https://uwcfa.org/ or call 910-798-3900.
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