When Dan McColley talks about non-profits, the word “together” comes up a lot.
As executive director and chief mission officer of Brookings Area Habitat for Humanity, McColley knows there are things Habitat does well for its clients, but sometimes there are things they need that his organization can’t provide.
That’s why he’d like all the non-profits to work together as part of the brand-new Brookings Council of Non-Profits.
The first meeting is set for 8:15 a.m. Jan. 25 at Café Coteau in the Children’s Museum of South Dakota as a meet-and-greet for those involved with non-profits so they can share news and generate ideas.
“The scope of what I don’t know is huge, so I’m hoping to learn a great deal about who’s doing what and how we can help each other,” McColley said. “I’m a firm believer that together we do more.”
A shocking statistic got McColley’s attention and inspired him to pool the local non-profits.
He recalled the initial planning meeting for the South Dakota Day of Giving.
“We got information from the South Dakota Community Foundation that there are over 400 registered non-profits in Brookings County, and we were shocked at that number,” McColley said. “I think the number is 440 non-profits in Brookings County. It was surprising.
“So we were thinking that we need a venue, a way for those non-profits to get together, initially just to meet each other and so that’s where this Brookings Council of Non-Profits sort of grew out of,” he said. “Let’s find out who each other is and how can we work together.”
Anyone associated with a non-profit is welcome to attend.
“I would love 440 in the room,” McColley said, laughing, but his aspirations are more modest for the first meeting.
“A reliable e-mail database would be awesome. If we could just get to the point where we could communicate effectively with each other. That’s a really good first step,” McColley said.
The goal is to build the group along with the database so all the non-profits can benefit from each other.
With that in mind, the Brookings Council of Non-Profits will meet at the same time every month to make it easier for folks to attend.
“Just that repetition helps build an audience,” McColley said.
Building for the future
Different groups may do different work, but sometimes the needs of their clients may overlap different non-profits.
In McColley’s case, Habitat helps families with housing, furniture and household goods.
“I can’t do clothing, I can’t do food assistance. … Habitat’s not set up to do that,” he said. “Somebody else that I don’t even know might be able to help them.
“It’s nice to have a handy list of somebody who might be able to help them with some of the other things. And I know that the other non-profit executives in town feel the same way,” McColley said.
He wants to know if there’s a non-profit that’s in a better position to help.
“Maybe there’s somebody doing that in Elkton and wouldn’t it be nice to know that for families out there in that area that they don’t have to come to Brookings?” McColley said.
Everyone in communication means clients are more likely to get all the help they need, but they have to start building that system now so it’s in place in the future.
“What can we do if we start planning six months in advance? How much more could we do, how much greater the impact could we have?” McColley asked.
He believes all non-profits face many of the same issues and that they can help each other work through them.
Many non-profits, like Habitat, rely on volunteers to do general work, like folding newsletters, to keep costs down.
“We need to engage volunteers in our work so that we can make our mission real, so we can provide that house at a price point where the families we serve can manage,” he said.
All non-profits share some common ground, whether it’s taxes or how the non-profit industry is perceived. In the Council of Non-Profits, they can use each other as resources, sounding boards and mentors to work through these issues, McColley said.
He is concerned the change in the tax laws’ standard deduction means more people will skip itemizing the deductions.
“If they’re not itemizing any more, we may lose that donor, so we’re going to have to figure out a way to keep that donor involved in our work or find someone else to replace their gift,” McColley said.
Like him, many people don’t know how big the non-profit industry is in Brookings County, so they don’t understand the impact the non-profits have locally.
“They see manufacturing as an industry. They see education as an industry,” McColley said. “Because our work is so diffused, they don’t see the non-profit industry and what we as a collective unit can do … and what we do accomplish.”
There are gaps in what the government and for-profit industries can do, and that’s where the non-profits do their work, he said.
“Just that awareness, I think, will be transformative for city leaders and county leaders as they begin to think about who we are as an organization,” McColley said.
There is strength in numbers, he believes, and banding together will help everyone in the end, but first, they have to get the ball rolling.
“We just really need a way for us to initially just to meet, find out who each other is, what work that we’re doing, so that we can support each other,” he said.
For more information, contact McColley at 697-2540, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Habitat office at 321 Ninth St. in Brookings (behind First Lutheran Church).
COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register
Contact Jodelle Greiner at email@example.com.