Impact doesn’t necessarily have to be measured in dollar amounts. Sometimes relatively small grants can pack a great deal of wallop; that is, they can be “small but mighty.” For example, each year Klee invests $10,000 in NYCON (New York Council on Nonprofits). That grant, combined with the same amount from each of three other Broome County funders, supports a wealth of services for Broome nonprofits. NYCON offers four to six seminars annually in Broome County, completely free to staff and board members of nonprofits that are members. Topics vary according to current “hot spots” and changing trends, and sessions are geared to be interactive. In addition, those organizations that attend (board and staff) qualify to apply for mini-grants.
Members also can contact NYCON for some technical assistance.
Funders meet annually to review the past year’s results and to determine priorities for the coming year.
Impact? The result of this modest investment is a stronger, more informed nonprofit community.
BUILDING CAPACITY AND SUSTAINABILITY
The mission of the Rural Health Network of South Central New York aligns well with that of the Klee Foundation: “…to advance the health and well-being of rural people and communities.” Rural Health Network collaborates with numerous agencies to serve the needs of the more rural communities, which frequently lack services available in the immediate Binghamton area, or the means to access “remote” services. Klee has supported the Network’s efforts with more than one grant. The first was to provide required matching funds for AmeriCorps and VISTA members who, through the Rural Health Service Corps, helped to build the capacity of 13 nonprofits to address increasing rates of obesity and chronic disease. The second grant supported a staff coordinator position for the Food and Health Network, helping to build that network’s capacity to ”reduce hunger, improve access to healthy, affordable, regionally produced food, and decrease diet related disease.”
In supporting a new position, Klee adhered to a pattern it has followed with similar grants, decreasing the amount of the grant over three years, while requiring the grantee organization to increase its financial support for the position. In this way, the Klee grant helps to establish a new position without creating ongoing dependency on our financial support.
The Ross Park Zoo (Southern Tier Zoological Society) needed to expand its tiny gift shop. The existing shop generated significant annual revenue to help with the Zoo’s operations. By enlarging it with a 625 ft. addition, not only would the zoo generate much needed additional revenue, but it would also gain a second exit from its grounds. Steering more visitor traffic past the shop’s attractive merchandise, much of it educational in nature, this new exit could help to spur more impulse purchases. A Klee grant helped the zoo accomplish this goal and build its sustainability.
The Promise Zone, a program of Binghamton University’s College of Community and Public Affairs, has achieved much success in connecting families with schools. Promise Zone uses the community school model, which makes schools the hub for bringing services to the community. Promise Zone’s goals include improved student attendance and academic achievement. It nurtures family engagement with the schools so that students can access services more easily. Assisted by graduate student interns, Promise Zone coordinators partner with school administrators to zero in on key problems they have identified. Klee has partnered with Promise Zone more than once. Because its program paralleled the goals and activities of the Healthy Lifestyles Coalition in the Roosevelt School neighborhood, Klee funded a Promise Zone coordinator to expand that project. This additional resource provided a variety of informal channels that parents could use to connect with the school and with one another other. Beginning in the fall of 2018, a Klee grant will place a Promise Zone coordinator in the Harpursville school district. She will be a continual resource for both parents and teachers, and in the absence of a school-based social worker will be able to link them with support services. Working with the Promise Zone, schools build a greater capacity to link with the communities they serve, to strengthen families, and to enhance teacher’s understanding of their pupils and their home environment.
GRANTS THAT DON’T WORK OUT
Unlike government sponsored programs, a foundation, as a private funder, can decide to take a calculated risk in funding a program. Sometimes various circumstances converge to cause a good program to close. Does this mean failure, or dollars wasted? We don’t think so. Over the past decade, exactly this has happened with several good programs. More often than not, the ongoing financial support needed to keep operating simply isn’t there. Sometimes the government cuts its support. Sometimes the program simply loses out in the competition for donor dollars in a shrinking community. In select situations, Klee funding can provide the opportunity for an organization to pursue every alternative before making the difficult decision to shut the doors.
In one such instance, Klee received the following note in a final report:
“I would love to add that the support of the Klee Foundation was INSTRUMENTAL to our ability to complete last season and not simply shut the doors mid-season, leaving many more people in the lurch. Had we been able to meet our challenges, it would have been due to the Klee’s faith in our future…. Please share my personal gratitude to your board for their support, and my apologies that we didn’t meet with better results.”
— [former executive director]