116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - The University of Iowa is expanding the use of its former AIB College of Business campus in Des Moines by expanding its Larned A. Waterman Iowa Nonprofit Resource Center both in scope and reach.
The center, which law professor and UI president emeritus Sandy Boyd founded in 2000, has functioned as a sort of consultant and support system for nonprofit start-ups seeking help, among other things, complying with state and federal regulations and improving operational capacity.
Funded by an endowment from the Larned A. Waterman family, the center has helped thousands of nonprofit organizations serve individuals and community development groups in ways government and business entities might not.
But the center, staffed by the equivalent of 4.5 full-time employees, can do more, according to co-director Paul Thelen. The demand exists.
Through lectures, workshops and scheduled individual meetings both at its home base in Iowa City and its new Des Moines location, the center will broaden its focus from start-ups to existing nonprofits aspiring toward more creative, efficient and effective service. New services will include strategic planning, leadership development and coaching and board-member and executive-staff assessments.
'As organizations mature, their needs change,” Thelen said. 'The need for board development and executive development becomes increasingly important. The need to develop a strategic planning process becomes more critical.”
The center's expansion includes opening an office in Des Moines on the former AIB College of Business Campus, gifted to UI and the Board of Regents in January 2015. The 20-acre campus, located at 2500 Fleur Dr., is known as the 'Iowa Center for Higher Education,” overseen by the Board of Regents.
The board has offered it up to all three of its public universities, but UI is the primary user as of now. In addition to its nonprofit resource center, UI is tapping the former AIB as administrative office space for, among other things, its National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice, Iowa Reading Research, Iowa Campus compact and Iowa Council of Foundations.
The University of Iowa also is offering on the campus academic programming in social work, political science, sport and recreation management and enterprise leadership. Beyond UI's use of the property, it's home to the 'Synergy Center,” a nonprofit incubator counting eight nonprofit organizations as tenants.
Thelen was in Des Moines last week to set up the new UI nonprofit resource center location, which will be open two days a week. He's been scheduling appointments there to begin Monday and said he'll use some weekends to deliver services - like leadership coaching and strategic planning.
'Regarding a service like strategic planning, our approach is that there are fundamental elements to prepare, produce, publish and practice a successful strategic plan,” Thelen said.
Specific nonprofit needs might vary, with some asking for help gathering data, planning an event, assessing an event or facilitating programming.
In the last year, the center served 222 Iowa nonprofit organizations - a figure that doesn't include 808 individual Iowans who attended lectures or workshops. The university expects to serve hundreds more through the new strategic planning and leadership development services.
'This combination of activities and services allows us to provide both a breadth and depth of service that we believe will strengthen the operational capacity of nonprofit organizations in our state,” Thelen said.
Iowa is home to more than 27,000 nonprofit organizations - a figure Thelen said has remained relatively level since a decline during the 2008 recession.
The center's new location won't cost UI much, in that the institution already had the space, and Thelen will be the only employee staffing it. The university will incur his travel expenses, but staffers already were commuting around the state to meet with nonprofit clients.
The center charges modest fees for some of its services - although basic advice and workshops are free, according to Thelen.
'Our goal is to deliver value that far exceeds cost,” he said.
Costs could range from $15 for a startup guide to hundreds for more involved training, planning or facilitating.
Although center staffers previously spent plenty of hours traveling, much of the service was doled out online or over the phone.
'We kind of had this virtual relationship,” Thelen said.
Center administrators conceived of a physical and programmatic expansion while hosting a workshop on the former AIB campus in May - a session produced in partnership with the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines and Drake University. That collaboration revealed the site's potential.
'These were part of ongoing conversations at the university to advance one of our main goals: ‘Engage with Iowa and the world to broaden education, improve health, and enhance economic development,' ” Thelen said.
Richard Koontz, co-director of the center with Thelen, said programming changes came in response to nonprofit feedback.
'We've listened to charities and foundations across Iowa that have expressed the increased need for one-on-one professional assistance, especially in the areas of leadership and management,” Koontz said.
It also fits with the UI strategic plan, according to Thelen.
'One of its pillars is to extend access of the expertise that we have at the University of Iowa, across the state,” he said. 'We saw a real opportunity to do that here within existing structure. So that's what we're doing.”
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