Love your neighbor.

Living out a Familiar Call in Unfamiliar Ways - Brotherhood Mutual

01-02-2018

It was a normal workday for Josh Spencer. As Chief Actuary and Associate Vice President at Brotherhood Mutual, Josh doesn’t often struggle to connect the dots between dollars given and impact created. He’s got a gift of seeing the world through numbers, and it’s that talent that brought him to Brotherhood Mutual, a company exclusively focused on serving Christian schools, camps and churches throughout the country.

As a result, the idea of influence through acts of service certainly wasn’t new to him. He knew (and believed) that we are called to serve those both within and beyond our communities. But when he heard Andrew Hoffman, NeighborLink’s Executive Director, speak at a chapel service, he heard something different—something that caught his ear and moved his heart. 

“He spoke about our call to love our neighbors,” says Spencer. “Lots of us would agree with loving our neighbors in a philosophical sense, but Andrew localized it, forcing us to think about what it looks like for our next door neighbors—to put a face, a name, a story, an actual address with a pressing need. That was powerful.”

While Brotherhood Mutual hasn’t had a long-term relationship with NeighborLink, many in the organization have known Hoffman and the organization for years.  Spencer says he’s watched how local homeowners and volunteers have been impacted by NeighborLink’s mission. “Last year alone, more than 600 families were served by NeighborLink volunteers,” Spencer says. As a man immersed in numbers every day, calculating the ripple effects of such interactions still boggles his mind. “It’s just huge in a community of this size, and it’s been happening for years,” he says.


A Likely Merging of Missions

When deciding to support NeighborLink, it wasn’t a stretch for the Brotherhood Mutual Foundation to see the link between NeighborLink’s vision and Brotherhood’s own organizational mission. For the last century, Brotherhood has operated profitably, and out of that growth, it aims to support Christian groups that might find themselves excluded from other possible sources of funding due to their mission-centered philosophies.

“From day one, we’ve always been focused on missional/faith-related causes in Fort Wayne—and even around the country,” Spencer says.

He recounts how the Foundation helped to send a group to Haiti in order to rebuild houses after the earthquake. While they were pouring foundations, they were also preaching the gospel, and this was something they didn’t have to hide or explain away when applying for funding with Brotherhood Mutual.

“There are so many organizations that we could support throughout Allen County,” says Spencer. “We look at the intent of the dollars, the organization’s track record, longevity and experience, financials,  staff size—all of it helps determine level of need.”

For the most part, however, Spencer says the majority of Brotherhood Mutual’s funding stays local—and that’s what made supporting NeighborLink so sensible. In the years since NeighborLink launched its very first project, more than 8,000 projects have been completed in Allen County. The concept of neighbor helping neighbor has spread throughout neighborhoods, and the tangible proof of those actions is evident through roofs that no longer leak, stairs that have been turned into accessible wheelchair ramps, and furnaces that keep young babies warm through the winter. From the road, the repairs seem so simple, but when you step beyond the front door of each home, you hear story after story of how small things changed neighborhoods.

This, says Spencer, is what makes NeighborLink such a unique and powerful organization.

Part 1 - Finding the Intersection - AWS Foundation

Part 2 - Living out a Familiar Call in Unfamiliar Ways - Brotherhood Mutual

Part 3 - A Mission To Serve - The Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne

Part 4 - A New Era of Nonprofit Leadership - Foellinger Foundation

Part 5 - On Investing Well - M.E. Raker Foundation

A Mission To Serve - The Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne

01-02-2018

When the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne showed up on scene in the early 21st century, life had gotten really hard for most of the world. WWI had just ended, and although America and her allies had emerged victorious, idealism took a back seat to pragmatism, and few were bold in their hopes for a future. 

Refusing to give in to that pessimism, a group of Fort Wayne community members laid the foundation for the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne. The year was 1922, and throughout the next decades, the Foundation would face its own struggles as it attempted to endure through the Great Depression and another World War. Nearly 100 years later, though, the Foundation has woven a long story of community development, working with countless organizations, donors, and initiatives to achieve its mission. Though some may call its mission vast and idealistic,  it is one that has proven successful time and time again. Industries, schools, nonprofits, programs, and more are doing good work today, thanks largely in part to the support given to them by the Community Foundation.

“As a community foundation, we cover the entire community, serving as grantmaker, steward, developer, adviser, and leader for organizations, programs, and initiatives all throughout the county,” says Christine Meek, Director of Community Impact. “We look for broad-based community support, funding sources, governance, and sustainability, and we believe it’s a large part of our mission to help those who are serving the most vulnerable.”

Although finding those organizations in need of support comes easily, Meek says that the true million-dollar challenge is finding enough financial resources to meet all those needs. “We get 45 requests every quarter, totaling $1M to $2M,” she says. “We only have $500K to give away each quarter, so that means that many of the requests coming in will be denied.”

It’s a denial that Meek and the board don’t take lightly, knowing that for many organizations, securing Foundation funding is all that stands between an organization’s ability to survive and thrive or close its doors forever. “So many of these programs are doing great, great work,” she says. “But the hard reality—for all of us—is that we only have so much funding.”


Offering Help Beyond Funding

While the Foundation can’t help every organization financially, it does seek to provide far-reaching assistance in other ways: putting potential donors in touch with organizations or initiatives in need of funding, providing leadership training, and offering specific training on day-to-day topics that can drastically affect the operational ability of an organization. 

As the Foundation sets out to achieve its strategic plans by 2020, Meek says the board is spending a lot of its own time talking about and reflecting on the idea of community development—figuring out how and where to be involved, and working to build an unrestricted endowment so they can focus more on funding meaningful initiatives without getting hindered by limited assets. 

In 2016, the Foundation provided $10M in grants to nonprofit organizations alone (and many more millions to community development projects, leadership initiatives, and other community programs and organizations). Although it’s guided by its mission to invest in community resources that are improving others’ quality of life, it is also driven by questions of sustainability and uniqueness. “How will needs be met if an organization doesn’t exist?” is a question Meek says the board is always asking. When it came to partnering with NeighborLink, answering that question was simple: “NeighborLink’s model is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. There is no one else out there doing this. Without NeighborLink, some of these people wouldn’t have anywhere else to turn.”

Part 1 - Finding the Intersection - AWS Foundation

Part 2 - Living out a Familiar Call in Unfamiliar Ways - Brotherhood Mutual

Part 3 - A Mission To Serve - The Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne

Part 4 - A New Era of Nonprofit Leadership - Foellinger Foundation

Part 5 - On Investing Well - M.E. Raker Foundation

A New Era of Nonprofit Leadership - Foellinger Foundation

01-02-2018

More than 60 years ago, Helene Foellinger stood before a crowd of people and reminded them that the most important thing for all of us was that we help people to help themselves and one another.

It was a simple collection of words that has since evolved into the primary mission of the Foellinger Foundation—one that is rooted in ideas of independence, self-reliance and community building. Today, as the Foellinger Foundation continues to serve as one of the largest sources of nonprofit grant funding throughout Allen County, its visible footprint throughout Northeast Indiana serves as  powerful proof that a single passion truly can change countless lives.

“This year, the Foellinger Foundation provided $8 M in grants,” says Cheryl Taylor, CEO. She hesitates to say that aloud, knowing that on the surface, those millions seem like so much. But to anyone who has taken even a quick look into the needs of the community, it’s clear that Taylor isn't exaggerating when she says “It’s all just a drop in the bucket.”

And more than just a drop in the bucket, that $8 M is also just a small piece of the puzzle of how the Foellinger Foundation approaches change throughout the community. “Our grants can be challenging because we’re looking first at how an organization thinks and works,” she says. “Our expectation is that an organization is mission-driven, well-governed, and results-oriented. We want to know how you identify your mission and how you stick to your plan.”

To answer those questions, each applying organization has to show how it tracks and measures specific actions.  It  needs to be able to describe how its board operates, and specifically, the Foundation wants to know how the board carries out a strategic plan and what tools are in place to make the organization better.

“There’s a belief in the community that if you get a Foellinger Foundation grant, you’ve really got it together,” says Taylor.

Doing that, however, is much harder than it seems.

 

Equipping Leaders to Sustain the Mission

For nonprofits operating on lean staff and budgets, drawing connections between mission and outcomes can be a difficult process. One of the ways organizations can do this, says Taylor, is through storytelling—and that’s something that she says NeighborLink has done very well.

“Nonprofits have to distinguish themselves from everyone else if they’re going to survive in this competitive market,” says Taylor. Her mind immediately goes to the story of the Carpenter’s Sons—a group of NeighborLink volunteers who regularly take on NeighborLink projects. “I’m intrigued that these guys go to church together in the morning, or go grab breakfast, and then they get to work. They have a spiritual base that creates this social opportunity for them to reach out across their community and connect with people they wouldn’t typically intersect with.”

Although the Foundation has given NeighborLink more than $100 K in funding throughout the years, Taylor says that beyond good storytelling, it takes the right leadership structure to make any amount of funding effective. As she looks out across the nonprofit landscape,  she anticipates some significant challenges on the horizon. Baby boomers are retiring, signaling a gap in nonprofit leadership, and she wonders if the younger generations will step up to the plate. “There’s so much opportunity for younger people within the nonprofit world, but they’re living busy lives, and many within the older generation haven’t figured out how to effectively mentor this younger generation into new leadership roles,” she says.

The Foundation isn’t the only organization talking about the challenges of leadership succession, but because it believes so strongly in leadership development, it has launched a program to help both new and seasoned leaders through concepts like strategy, negotiation, and difficult conversations. “So much of leadership is about finding your true peers and the connectivity that you gain from that. Being a leader of a nonprofit is a lonely job,” says Taylor. “There aren’t a lot of people who understand your challenges. We get that here at Foellinger, so the premise of our leadership program is to offer top-notch educational opportunities right here in Allen County. We believe firmly that if we invest in leaders, the organizations we support will be excellent.”

It’s a program that Taylor says NeighborLink has already benefited from, and as Andrew Hoffman makes his way through the Foellinger Foundation’s 18-month Executive Leader Program, he’s able to continue to focus his own vision on what’s next for NeighborLink.

“I want steward the NeighborLink mission well, and in order to do that, I must continue to grow as a leader,” says Hoffman. “The varied demands and challenges with running a small, grassroots nonprofit constantly push me on a daily basis, and this makes it hard to find the time to go deeper in a particular area of professional growth. The Foellinger Executive Leader Program has been a helpful way to carve out space to focus on organizational, culture-driven changes— both personally and corporately at NeighborLink. I consider it an honor to be selected and invested in.”

Part 1 - Finding the Intersection - AWS Foundation

Part 2 - Living out a Familiar Call in Unfamiliar Ways - Brotherhood Mutual

Part 3 - A Mission To Serve - The Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne

Part 4 - A New Era of Nonprofit Leadership - Foellinger Foundation

Part 5 - On Investing Well - M.E. Raker Foundation