NORTH BENNINGTON — For a non-profit organization trying to do good, it can be hard raising money, recruiting volunteers, and organizing finances. Next week, consultant Andy Robinson will be hosting a workshop to show nonprofits how to leap those hurdles.
At Left Bank on June 3, Robinson will host a full-day workshop with interactive activities and a 25-page handout to help organizations become more sustainable, at the cost of $80. The consultant held a workshop last year on boards and fundraising with about 20 participants and decided to host a follow-up session.
"I stumbled into [the field] and found myself doing fundraising for a nonprofit, and I enjoyed it and I was good at it. It was an amazing organization," Robinson said. "I care about social change and want to make the world a better place."
A nonprofit is a tax-exempt organization, registered as a 501(c)(3) for the Internal Revenue Service, that serves the public interest. These groups are usually charitable, educational, scientific, religious, or literary.
Nonprofits in Vermont make up 20 percent of the Gross State Product (GSP), according to Common Good Vermont, the statewide nonprofit, and there are 6.4 nonprofits per 1,000 Vermonters.
"He just did a fantastic orientation fundraising seminar with us. It was really in depth," Amelia Silver, Sunrise Family Resource Center executive director said. "It was an excellent orientation for board members on what their role is in the nonprofit and what strategies work."
Robinson has worked in 47 states and Canada and published six books including "Selling Social Change," "Grassroots Grants," and the latest "Train Your Board (and Everyone Else) to Raise Money," with Andrea Kihlstedt. He focuses on the needs of organizations that specialize in human rights, social justice, artistic expression, environmental conservation, and community development, according to his website. Robinson has 35 years of experience with nonprofits, owns a consulting practice and lives in Plainfield.
The "Fundraising and Beyond: Creating a Successful, Sustainable Organization" workshop will cover ways to figure out what success and sustainability look like, practice self-assessments, and practical tips to use for fundraising and how to diversify income.
"(Nonprofits are) a huge sector. Everything from a local soccer club to big institutions like the hospital and Bennington College; it's a very diverse sector," Robinson said. "Do they get a pass? Nonprofits suffer from all the bad business behavior that for-profits suffer from. Poor planning; there is embezzlement, and that's something we'll talk about."
He's worked with various southern Vermont organizations such as Sunrise Family Resource Center, Long Trail School, The Collaborative and the Vermont Wilderness School. Ninety-five percent of Robinson's clients are nonprofits.
"I've done a bunch with him and I would say that every workshop he does is hands-on and practical use for nonprofits," Maryann Morris, The Collaborative executive director said. "You're really given the tools to go back and get things done. He speaks with practical language. The workshops themselves are very interactive and great for opening up discussions."
Robinson mentioned that nonprofits sometimes get overlooked in the process of economic development planning.
"When people sit around, whoever does economic development, who's not usually at the table is the nonprofit community," he said. "As a pure economic engine, we're often invisible to economic development in the government. If you're attracting people to the county, there are a rich array of nonprofits who provide opportunities for people. I don't think we're like the other people. It's central to the life of any city, town, region. Everyone benefits if this group is stronger."
If you go
Where: The Left Bank, 5 Bank St., North Bennington
When: June 3, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Who: Nonprofit organizations and Consultant Andy Robinson
What: "Fundraising and Beyond: Creating a Successful, Sustainable Organization" workshop
Cost: $80, preregister at Common Good Vermont