Editor’s Note: Ashley Brown is Executive Director at Women’s Resource Center of Manatee County, a nonprofit dedicated to providing direction to women of all generations by inspiring, educating and supporting them through life’s transitions.
Is this really happening?
On November 2, 2016, the Women's Resource Center of Manatee and Women's Resource Center of Sarasota County voted unanimously to merge. This is terrific news on so many levels, but right now it still seems a bit surreal! This is something we have been talking about in theory for years and thoroughly negotiating for the past year, so that fact that it is done seems, well, quite honestly, anticlimactic. In reflecting on the journey, there are important observations to share.
- An opportunity to explore ways to increase impact between our organizations began when The Patterson Foundation approved funding for facilitators to help us figure out how to learn and share. We learned what the outside world thought about how we delivered programs, handled supporters and managed our financials. The 'learning' was eye-opening — both positive and what I would call 'needs improvement.' Had we not had this opportunity, we may have never addressed how the organizations were perceived by our stakeholders. We shared the information with our boards and began a course correction.
- An important part of this process was connecting. Our boards and staff had never worked collaboratively and there were feelings of mistrust. Socials helped us break the ice; joint board meetings where we openly shared information helped to build the foundation. Both boards selected a Task Force and began meeting regularly to address the issues at hand. With help from the facilitators, we began to know each other and have authentic and productive conversations.
- We evolved. The Task Force evolved from representatives from two separate organizations to a group of highly committed and caring individuals working toward the same purpose—to strengthen what is good and build what's missing.
- We have arrived. When I look at the good work accomplished by the facilitator's and Task Force, I am in awe. We started as two small nonprofits, struggling to pursue our missions with limited resources. Today, I am proud to acknowledge that we are strengthened in so many areas; I'll name a few: provide services in two counties with aspirations for two more; a re-energized high-level board; a funding community that appreciates that stronger organizations can go further to pursue their mission.
Our gratitude and thanks to The Patterson Foundation for allowing us this amazing opportunity to Learn. Share. Connect. Evolve and Strengthen.
Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.
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