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Support operational needs of non-profits

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Paula Land, guest columnist

Every day non-profits are hard at work making our community a great place to live. Some are addressing unmet mental health or educational needs, while others bring opportunity for connection and expression. In so many ways, the non-profits at work in Linn County touch our lives, often without us even knowing it.

As a non-profit executive director, I know firsthand the necessity of the work that non-profit organizations do in our communities. And I also know that funding this work can be a challenge. At the Catherine McAuley Center, we are honored to have been consistently supported by so many in the community. The generosity of countless of corporations, foundations and individual donors have been essential in helping us do our work.

Yet all non-profits know the struggle of finding the right funding for the right project — donors regularly wish to see their support translate into quantitative results, such as meals served or workbooks purchased. It can be more difficult to find support for the more intangible necessities that allow us to fulfill our mission: strategic planning, keep computers running or supporting staff and board training and development.

Unfortunately, this funding is hard to come by, even though it is most essential to building sustainable organizations, implementing innovative ideas, developing leaders and counteracting the staff and volunteer burnout that is common in the non-profit sector.

At the Catherine McAuley Center, we know firsthand the positive impact that this type of non-programmatic funding can have. In 2014, we received a grant from the Operational Development Fund from the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, which allowed us to more efficiently track and analyze data and thereby improve the quality of our Adult Basic Education Program. This year, as we explore our opportunity for successful expansion, similar grant funding is allowing us to conduct a feasibility study. These efforts provide invaluable insight which allow us to do our work as an organization better. Neither project would have qualified for programmatic funding.

I want to encourage non-profit organizations to invest in capacity building by pursuing organizational development opportunities. In order for our sector to thrive, we need to build the strongest organizations that we can.

I also want to thank funders and donors for supporting non-profits and encourage giving to organizational development projects, or unrestricted funds that are so needed. When non-profits are stronger, their impact is greater — from the inside out.

• Paula Land is executive director of the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids.

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