No Sibling Rivalry Here

Siblings. Those brothers and sisters whom you love and cherish most of your life are also those individuals with whom you compete, fight, collaborate, and support, and depending where you are in the household pecking order, you might lead, follow, or ignore them.

The Nonprofit Management Fund in Milwaukee understands familial relationships as it spawned a sister fund in the neighboring county. In 1998, five funders from the Milwaukee Fund partnered with three local entities to establish the Nonprofit Management Fund of Waukesha County.

For the most part, the big sister fund led the way, modeling grant-making behavior, and launching initiatives that would benefit the full metropolitan area.  Each partner enriched its own grant-making efforts through learning to analyze nonprofit management needs and results. With a track record of success and the satisfaction of observing measurable improvements in many local nonprofits, the partners acknowledged 16 years of strengthening Waukesha County nonprofits and quietly stopped making grants in August 2013.

From the beginning, the two funds paralleled each other’s goals and guidelines, as well as proposal and evaluation formats. Primarily, only two aspects distinguished the funds: the grant range in Waukesha was $500-$7,500 (Milwaukee $1,000-$10,000), and the Committee only met twice a year in Waukesha, compared to the standard six annual grant cycles in Milwaukee.

Whatever the future may hold for Waukesha nonprofits, it’s worth celebrating awarding 296 grants for a total of $1,439,590 to 80 different organizations. An incredible 83% of 356 applications were funded, with an average grant of $4,860.

Grantees were diverse with 175 grants totaling $845,540 to health and human service organizations; 70 grants were made to arts & culture groups for a total of $366,739. Over the 16 years, 57 grants for a total of $230,720 focused on technology; 49 grants enhanced fundraising for an investment of $265,582; 45 grants were made for marketing totaling $221,881 and another 45 for planning adding to $251,470.  And, 17 nonprofits received a diagnostic clinic, which is a comprehensive organizational assessment.

Technical assistance, coaching, and consultation were provided by 197 different consultants, with 10 of those consultants helping grantees on 5 or more projects.

These statistics mirror those in Milwaukee, and the committee members generally followed the lead of the older sibling when it came to funding initiatives that provided assistance and resources to all local nonprofits, including strengthening Boards, enhancing technology, and training consultants.

Yet, there was a departure from the “following” role when the Waukesha Fund announced at its 10th anniversary that it was launching a new private/public partnership--the Strategic Alliance Fund. This Fund would award grants to local human service agencies to establish a formal collaboration, negotiate a strategic alliance, co-locate to share back-office and other administrative functions, or restructure organizationally through a merger.  Although this Fund only made a few grants, the partners continue to chant a mantra of merge or establish a formal alliance.

As the Milwaukee  committee plans for the next generation, it should consolidate the family business and bring the little sister into the fold as one Fund covering the four-county area.

2 comments | Add a New Comment
1. Rob Meiksins | April 30, 2014 at 02:53 PM EDT

I would agree with the recommendation: we are one big interrelated and interdependent community, so we should treat all the area nonprofits with that mindset. But how do we get funders from the WOW counties to join in the investment knowing some of their money might come to Milwaukee nonprofits (gasp!)?

2. Scott Gelzer | May 12, 2014 at 05:38 PM EDT

I think this blog post makes a good point. Yet, one difference between the Funds in their original format was a strong perception among Waukesha leaders about a need for substantial collaboration including merger among nonprofits. If the sponsors intend to build one Fund, there may be regional (County) variables to take into account.

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