A new initiative that matches skilled volunteers with the short-term operational needs of 100 local nonprofit organizations in El Paso and Teller counties was launched last week to help the sector grow stronger while emerging from the coronavirus pandemic and to recover from a persistent labor shortage.
The nonprofit leaders were introduced to Pikes Peak Connect at an April 21 open house, and a public unveiling took place April 22 at the Pikes Peak Community Foundation’s new Philanthropy Collective at 315 E. Pikes Peak Ave.
Pikes Peak Connect is “intended to help the nonprofit sector achieve project-based results to reduce costs and support organizations,” said Mina Liebert, director of community impact for the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, a granting agency that also has programs that assist nonprofit organizations with operational courage, technical assistance, and other training.
The typical volunteer tasks of stuffing envelopes, answering the phone, cooking meals or cleaning have given way to a system that connects professional volunteer work with organizational projects related to operations, development, marketing, fundraising, recruitment of employees, legality of governance and bylaws. , website design, financial planning, leadership coaching, volunteer engagement and other needs.
The initiative uses a national online platform, Catchafire.org, where organizations list projects and volunteers sign up. Local opportunities are added as nonprofits join us, Liebert said.
Fourteen area funders, including the Gazette Charities Foundation, the philanthropic arm of The Gazette, collectively contributed $100,000 to fund the pilot program for one year, she said.
The money allows up to 100 nonprofits in the region to join the initiative for free on a first-come, first-served basis, she said.
The Catchafire platform offers hundreds of project templates that nonprofits could pursue using a trained volunteer, such as creating a business plan, an annual report, a website redesign, or others. work that organizations would otherwise have to pay for.
Interest from nonprofits is high, Liebert said.
“The idea is not to replace employees but to alleviate employment challenges because of the past two years of COVID,” she said. “It’s another tool to help nonprofits and give people a way to volunteer in the community.”
The Community First Foundation of Denver offers a similar initiative for its area nonprofits.
The local project grew out of an idea by the Gazette Charities Foundation to create a website, COS Connect, where residents could get information about charitable efforts during the pandemic and how to volunteer or donate. in the community.
“In response to COVID in March 2020, the Gazette Charities Foundation and The Gazette were looking to boost volunteerism and help community members know where to go,” said Deb Mahan, executive director of the Gazette Charities Foundation.
COSConnect was a success, she said, growing to 60 nonprofits promoting volunteer opportunities.
The website will now be integrated with the larger Pikes Peak Connect, which will debut in May, Liebert said.
Many organizations have been forced to downsize during the pandemic, Mahan said, so this robust new method of capacity building will help support nonprofits moving forward.
“There have clearly been blows to many of our nonprofits during COVID,” Mahan said. “As we’ve come out of this, many have seen an increase in donor support because people realized the needs were so great, and many have received funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, which has been helpful.
“We are pleased to be able to do something to make the nonprofit community more resilient as we emerge from this crisis and move into the next step for our community.”
Pikes Peak Connect debuts alongside the Philanthropy Collective, in which 10 nonprofits are housed in a downtown office building. The concept is that sharing office space covers some operational costs and working nearby inspires greater innovation to help solve community problems through charitable efforts.
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