Danvers, MA - The 1,266 nonprofit organizations located within Essex County’s 501 square miles represent a crucial part of the lifeblood of our county, sustaining, enriching and bettering the lives of Essex County’s 762,000 residents.
Since its inception in 1999, Essex County Community Foundation has, as part of its vision for a thriving, robust region, worked to strengthen these area nonprofits so that they can more efficiently fulfill their own vital missions: feeding the hungry, preserving our landscape, empowering our youth and offering hope to those in need.
Over the last 17 years, ECCF has fulfilled this important facet of our larger mission in a variety of ways. Historically, through our Center for Nonprofit Excellence, the Foundation has provided guidance, advice, counseling and resources – such as capacity-building workshops and access to the Grants Resource Center – to our nonprofit partners.
But the CNE’s greatest contribution to the success of the local nonprofit sector happens through the Foundation’s annual Institute for Trustees. For the last seven years, as winter gives way to spring, hundreds of nonprofit leaders have gathered at the Pingree School in South Hamilton on a Saturday in March for an inspirational all-day conference featuring networking and presentations from the region’s leading experts on the topics and challenges facing nonprofit boards today.
“We believe that an efficient and well-run board is one of the most important assets a nonprofit can have,” said Dave Edwards, ECCF’s president and CEO. “The function of a board is to provide the organization with a strong foundation so it can effectively help the people it serves. The IFT helps build that foundation.”
This is why going forward ECCF will redirect all CNE resources toward the IFT, the tremendous value of which was recently evaluated by an independent team of nonprofit experts. Not only has IFT grown steadily by 5-10 percent each year since its inception, it is also viewed by local nonprofit leaders as the leading means of meaningful board education in the region.
“This conference is so important to our local nonprofits and we are committed to producing an IFT that gets better and better with each passing year, but that takes resources,” said ECCF’s Vice President for Philanthropy Julie Bishop. “Not only is IFT our strongest connection to the nonprofit community, but we are offering something that no one else in the region offers.”
ECCF’s nonprofit partners will still have access to a robust directory of resources, including a list of organizations offering high-quality workshops throughout the year. These resources are currently being updated on ECCF’s website. The Foundation’s overall focus going forward, however, is concentrating on the unique programs and initiatives through which we can have the greatest impact on Essex County.
This is part of the Foundation’s renewed commitment to community leadership. It is important to our cities and towns. It is important to our donors.
ECCF recently unveiled a new strategic plan and vision for our region, one in which all 34 cities and towns are thriving, robust places with economic and job opportunities, safe and vibrant neighborhoods, arts, culture, successful schools and healthy residents. We want to help Essex County continue to be one of the best places to live, work and raise families.
This means we are focusing more on our valued local donors, who entrust us to guide them through their philanthropic journey and assist them in making a significant, positive impact in Essex County through donor advised funds. This means we are focusing on community leadership. Impact Essex County, a three-phase, multi-year project launched earlier this year, will enable ECCF to lead an effort to gain an accurate picture of the region’s current health, identify Essex County’s most pressing problems and raise money to help solve our core challenges.
“Through Impact Essex County, we will work with nonprofits, community and business leaders, elected officials and funders to help make Essex County a better place for all,” said Jon Payson, chair of ECCF’s board of trustees. “This project will help us to help transform lives. It will help us transform our communities.”
Phase one of Impact Essex County – assessing the region’s current health – is already underway. An interactive website listing all of our findings will be available for public use this fall.
These are exciting times for the Foundation, and for Essex County. And while we are shifting how we do things, we remain steadfast to the why. Our mission is to strengthen the communities of Essex County by promoting philanthropy and managing charitable assets, making grants and engaging in strategic community leadership.
We look forward to leading change and transforming communities in the coming weeks, months and years ahead. And we are proud to share that vision with you.