Building the local community through the Capacity Lab | News, Sports, Jobs


Everyone is reeling from inflation. When COVID-19 hit, many people hunkered down and cut spending. As a result, many companies have reduced production and several have closed completely. When people started to come out of the pandemic, they also bought and drove more. However, as many businesses have reduced or closed around the world, there are not as many products available for purchase these days.

This problem and many others are at the root of inflation. For example, when manufacturers struggle to get the supplies they need to make products and their supplies cost more, they have to raise the prices of what they make to stay open. Many companies are also struggling to find and retain employees, which has led to higher wages and fuel prices continue to rise.

As anyone who understands the laws of supply and demand knows, the price of goods and services tends to increase when the supply decreases or when the demand for these things increases. This is where we are today.

Most nonprofits, places like YWCAs, Meals on Wheels, youth programs, humane and historical societies generally don’t have the ability to raise prices to offset their rising costs. . Most nonprofits operate with funds raised through donations and grants. They were never in the business of generating profits, hence the non-profit label. This is especially true for small and medium-sized nonprofits in rural counties like Chautauqua, where there aren’t many resources, but there’s a lot of competition for the same people to donate.

When the general public cuts their budget simply to afford food and gas, they are less likely to be as generous as they were when the economy was booming. That’s why, even before the pandemic hit, the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation (NCCF), the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, United Ways of Northern and Southern Chautauqua County, the Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation and the Winifred Crawford Dibert Foundation come together to address nonprofit capacity building. in Chautauqua County. They understood the need to connect to be more efficient with their limited funds. Therefore, they sought support from the Gebbie Foundation, the Lenna Foundation, and successfully secured a significant investment from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation (RCWJF) to launch the Chautauqua Nonprofit Capacity Partnership (CNCP).

One of the first things CNCP did was survey local nonprofits to assess their needs. They learned a lot about what drives collective work and the obstacles to achieving achievable goals. Four hundred and twenty respondents from 36 local nonprofits provided feedback through the Organizational Rating of Capacity Indicators in seven domains. In return, they each received an individualized report to use as a roadmap for their board and leaders, helping them determine how to strengthen their nonprofit.

CNCP also used the report to prioritize where to focus time and resources for the greatest impact, identifying nonprofits’ capacity building needs and possible solutions. They decided to focus first on providing resources and training: organizational and executive coaching; and the development of a talent pool. They also created a directory of resources and training on the Chautauqua Grants website, a shared grants portal for area nonprofits.

The portal has also been used to share COVID-19 resources through the Chautauqua County Crisis Response Fund: COVID-19. Through shared decision-making, multiple funders and stakeholders pooled their resources and distributed $1 million countywide in just six months. This effort strengthened their relationships leading to the development of a vision statement and formal memorandum of understanding for CNCP signed by the funders who chose to participate.

In 2021, CNCP officially renamed its group The Capacity Lab, and the RCWJF provided funding for its facilitation, leading to the hiring of Noah Goodling to manage the project full-time in December. Noah continuously assesses the needs of nonprofit organizations, identifies emerging opportunities, and provides connections to other local, regional, and national resources. One of its goals is to develop and deliver professional development and programming to help nonprofit leaders and boards become more confident and prepared. It also encourages and supports shared services and resources across Chautauqua County nonprofit organizations to promote collaboration and sustainability. It holds regular meetings so nonprofits can share knowledge and connect with local, state, and national funders. It helps them identify and better understand underserved populations in the county and build the capacity of nonprofit organizations to reach them. Anyone interested in contributing an idea or getting involved can contact Noah at [email protected]

Often we don’t realize how dependent we are on what the nonprofit sector provides. The NCCF LED strongly supports the work of The Capacity Lab as it aligns resources and develops collaborative strategies to strengthen the nonprofit sector in Chautauqua County so that nonprofits can continue to support us in all.

Patty Hammond is the Economic Development Coordinator at the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation. The Local Economic Development (LED) Initiative is a standing committee of the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation (NCCF). Send your comments or suggestions to Patty Hammond at [email protected]

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