Serving Nonprofits. Strengthening West Virginia.

Gazette: Nonprofits talk improvement, challenges

By on April 15, 2015 in News

This article originally appeared in the April 14 edition of The Charleston Gazette and is reposted here with permission.

by Lydia Nuzum, Staff writer, Charleston Gazette

Nonprofit organizations across West Virginia share similar goals, including a commitment to helping others and improving the communities they serve.

They also share similar struggles — generating funding, performing community outreach and planning. That’s why the West Virginia Non-Profit Association is holding regional workshops designed to help nonprofits statewide address their concerns and strengthen their missions.

More than 30 representatives of nonprofits from around the Kanawha Valley attended the WVNPA’s third regional workshop on Tuesday; the organization has six more scheduled to take place across the state in Parkersburg, Morgantown, Lewisburg, Martinsburg, Wheeling and Elkins through May.

Laura Lee Haddad, executive director of the WVNPA, said the organization was formed in 2012 with goal of helping nonprofits identify and eliminate problems that could jeopardize their missions. One of its primary tools is the “West Virginia Principles and Practices for Non-Profit Excellence,” a guide the WVNPA developed to identify best practices for nonprofits for everything from planning to governance to legal concerns, Haddad said.

“How many of us turn on the radio, pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV and hear about issues surrounding nonprofits? We’re being scrutinized, and when you hear those stories about excessive executive compensation packages or questionable spending practices or embezzlement issues … we’re under the microscope,” Haddad said. “West Virginia Principles and Practices are a tool to help you evaluate your organizational operations and develop a type of report card of where you stand in terms of accountability and transparency.”

According to Haddad, successful nonprofits have a well-defined mission, vision and values, and are constantly reevaluating their goals to ensure they are meeting them. The WVNPA’s Principles and Practices outline how to develop strategic plans, how to allocate funds toward planning, how to structure a board of directors and how to manage finances.

“It’s a good opportunity for every organization, no matter how large or small, to review their operating guidelines,” said John Ballengee, executive director of the United Way of Central West Virginia and chair of the WVNPA board. “I work for a fairly substantial organization, and we went through a similar process about four years ago, and we found all sorts of things we needed to update, revise and bring into the current structure. It’s a great opportunity for organizations to go through a checklist.”

Rachel Scudiere, who has served as executive director of the Childhood Language Center since January, said the workshop helped give her a better understanding of how other nonprofits operate, as well as some ideas on how the CLC can improve in certain areas.

“Being new to the nonprofit world, I think it’s important to learn from the people who’ve been doing this for a while,” she said. “I think one of our big issues is thinking of ways we can run [the CLC] more like a business. Our first priority is always benefiting children, but there are costs and problems associated with that sometimes, and we have to think, in that way, like a business, because that’s how it operates.”

As part of its outreach, the WVNPA has launched an online version of Principles and Practices that is accessible on its website, www.wvnpa.org/principles.

The next WVNPA regional meeting will be held Wednesday at the American Red Cross in Morgantown. WVNPA’s other sessions include April 22 at the Parkersburg Community Foundation in Parkersburg, May 5 at the Holiday Inn in Martinsburg, May 13 at Catholic Charities West Virginia in Wheeling, May 20 at Carnegie Hall in Lewisburg and May 21 at the Isaac Jackson Hotel & Conference Center in Elkins.

Sessions are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with lunch provided. The Elkins session will be from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. with snacks and refreshments provided.

The WVNPA is a statewide network of nonprofit organizations affiliated with the National Council of Non-Profits. To learn more about the WVNPA or to become a member organization, visit www.wvnpa.org.

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