A new effort, backed by Bader Philanthropies and the Northwestern Mutual Foundation, is seeking to conduct a comprehensive study of Milwaukee area nonprofits to better understand how to support them.
Project Pivot, a Milwaukee-based capacity-building nonprofit organization, plans to take stock of the region’s nonprofit landscape over the next few months, examining what resources are currently available and where there are gaps. It is partnering with the Helen Bader Institute for Nonprofit Management at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on the project.
The effort comes after several nonprofit-supporting organizations have ceased operations in recent years, including the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee and the Wisconsin Nonprofits Association.
“Since thriving communities depend on the integration of strong private, public and nonprofit sectors, everyone has a stake,” said Shelly Schnupp, the managing director of Project Pivot and leader of the initiative. “However, absent from many of the plans to replace capacity building services are the voices of nonprofits themselves. To effectively support organizations, we must first understand the need and demand by listening to the voices of nonprofit leaders, volunteers and other important stakeholders.”
Over the next five months, nonprofit stakeholders – including leaders, board members and staff – will be invited to share their thoughts through an online survey, interviews and focus groups.
Organizers want to yield as many responses from community-based and grassroots nonprofit organizations as possible, said Steven Zimmerman, principal of Spectrum Nonprofit Services, LLC, who serves on the project advisory council.
“We do believe this is the most comprehensive study of Milwaukee area nonprofits of all time,” he said. “…This is really an opportunity for everyone’s voices to be heard.”
Meanwhile, Project Pivot will review other nonprofit support models nationally. Ultimately, the group will identify strategies to fill the gaps in Milwaukee’s nonprofit sector and draft a plan to be released in December.
“It’s an aggressive timeline,” Zimmerman said. “But we also know that for those who need help, we don’t want to spend a year studying and then come up with something. We’re trying to move quickly to be responsive.”
What exactly the outcome of the study will be, Zimmerman said, is to be determined.
“One of the questions that has come up is ‘Do you have a structure in mind?’ And ‘Are you looking to start a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit center?’” he said. “And our answer to that is we don’t know. We’re not really looking to do that. Our goal is to be able to understand what resources are available to organizations. Are they aware of them? How do they access them and where are there gaps?”
Several prominent nonprofit leaders are serving on the advisory council, including Eve Hall, president and chief executive officer of Milwaukee Urban Leage; Nicole Angresano, vice president of community impact for the United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County; Doug Ihrke, executive director of the UWM Helen Bader Institute for Nonprofit Management; and Maria Vento, vice president of grants and impact investments for Bader Philanthropies, among others.
More information about the survey is available on the Pivot website.