First round of Catalyst Fund grants support collaborations for area nonprofits
Initiative makes first grant awards for technical support
Boston, MA – April 27, 2011 –The Catalyst Fund for Nonprofits has announced its first-ever round of grants to local nonprofit organizations to help underwrite the costs associated with strategic collaboration. The fund is designed to support a wide range of alliances from joint ventures to long-term partnerships and mergers through technical assistance for collaboration feasibility assessments, planning, and implementation
The first round of grants provides expert support for a number of organizations, each in partnership with aligned missions and shared constituencies.
Among those receiving technical support are the Allston Brighton CDC which is pursuing a collaboration with Urban Edge; Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, exploring an alliance with Girls’ LEAP; and Chelsea Neighborhood Developers, which is leading a group seeking to further develop a joint venture with Centro Latino, Bunker Hill Community College and Metro Credit Union.
The Catalyst Fund was launched in September 2010 as a funding partnership of the Boston Foundation, Boston LISC, the Hyams Foundation, and United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, with an initial investment of more than $1.7 million. The goal of the new fund is to respond to increasing requests by area nonprofits for support in pursuing collaborations. These strategic, voluntary collaborations can range from joint ventures, to shared back-office functions to full mergers, as organizations explore ways to strengthen their individual missions and increase their impact in a time of rising need and limited resources.
The Catalyst Fund for Nonprofits is managed at the Boston office of Nonprofit Finance Fund, a community development financial institution with more than 30 years of experience helping nonprofits operate and use resources more effectively.
Three examples of Catalyst Fund work
“We work to improve the lives of young girls and to support their healthy development,” said Deborah Re, Chief Executive Officer of Big Sister Association of Greater Boston. “With assistance from the Catalyst Fund, we are talking with Girls’ LEAP. Given what we have in common, the process is proving to be valuable, even if we don’t end up changing the relationship we have today. The Catalyst Fund gives us an extra resource to enable us to talk, evaluate and strengthen the work we do with a group that shares our concern for girls.”
Deborah Weaver, Executive Director of Girls’ LEAP, agreed with the value of the shared conversation. Her organization works with at-risk girls aged 8 to 18, training them in verbal and physical safety skills
“The chance to work together and survey the work we do and the community we serve can only help us as an organization,” said Weaver.
Helping promising nonprofit collaborations like Big Sister Association and Girls’ LEAP by paying for technical expertise to assess, plan and implement an alliance, is exactly what the Catalyst Fund for Nonprofits was established to do, according to William Pinakiewicz, Director of the New England Program of Nonprofit Finance Fund, who has played a leading role in the new funding partnership.
“This collaboration involves two organizations that have, individually, put a great deal of thought into the idea of better serving young girls in the region,” said Pinakiewicz. “They came well prepared, and the Catalyst Fund is able to help them clarify their goals, separately and together.”
Ann Houston, Executive Director of Chelsea Neighborhood Developers, said the collaboration known as the Family Economic Center is focused on an array of financial education and job skills services for a disadvantaged immigrant population. Their Catalyst Fund award is supporting the current business planning needs of the partnership.
“When we talk to our clients, we can see what the effect is when the services they need are disaggregated,” Houston said. “Someone comes in to get help getting their taxes done, and she wants to buy a house. So she needs better English language skills to get the better job that help make that happen. But connecting with the range of services and supports that that client needs can be so complicated and far flung—people get lost in the shuffle.”
With technical assistance from the Catalyst Fund, Chelsea Neighborhood Developers and the others in that group—including Centro Latino, Bunker Hill Community College and Metro Credit Union are finding ways to make that array of services better organized to serve the needs of the client.
A third alliance supported by the Catalyst fund in this first round includes Urban Edge and the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation, or CDC. Both organizations are focused on developing and sustaining stable, healthy, and diverse communities, in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury in the case of Urban Edge, and in Allston and Brighton for the other. The alliance they are working on with support from the Catalyst Fund would create a third entity to oversee and manage the housing each organization creates and owns.
According to Chrystal Kornegay, President and CEO of Urban Edge, and MH Nsangou, Executive Director of Allston Brighton CDC, the idea is to have oversight of housing managed by an organization that can benefit from scaling up and managing both portfolios of property, enabling the CDC’s themselves to give greater focus to their community commitments.
“We think this is a wonderful opportunity,” said Kornegay. “It strengthens our ability to manage the local affordable housing we own, and it frees us to handle the broader community needs that we are here to address.”
The Catalyst Fund continues to review applications on a rolling basis and will host informational sessions for nonprofits on May 10 and 11 from 9:30 – 11:00 at The Nonprofit Center. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Catalyst Fund is the first funder partnership of its kind in Boston, working to develop supportive resources for a robust collaboration practice in the nonprofit sector. The Catalyst Fund is interested in funding proposals from nonprofits that seek to meaningfully change the way they do business for the long-term, and have strong support from their respective Boards.
Nonprofits receiving funding select a preferred technical assistance provider from a pool of pre-qualified consultants. That pool is comprised of technical advisors who have a strong track record of experience in nonprofit collaboration and reflect the diversity of communities served by the region’s nonprofits.
The Catalyst Fund is focusing its efforts on organizations in the mission areas of Arts & Culture, Community Development, Human Services and Youth Development. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. For more information, potential applicants are asked to refer to the website located at http://nonprofitfinancefund.org/northeast/new-england-catalyst-fund
The Boston Foundation
Warschawski for Nonprofit Finance Fund