Nonprofit Spinoff Reunites with Foundation Parent: The State of Capacity Building

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Wolkensee / Waldemar Merger

July 21, 2016; Richmond Times Dispatch

An announced merger between The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia (TCF)—assets $425 million in 2014—and the Partnership for Nonprofit Excellence (PNE)—assets $1.3 million in 2014—seems like less of a merger and more like a family reunion, a formal restructuring meant to provide a base for a different direction.

PNE, you see, was started by the foundation; the two are co-located and share back office services, so in terms of how it faces the public, the “merger” or re-assimilation will not mean much to the public or to nonprofits in the area. What will mean something to them, however, is the foundation’s intention for PNE, which is to use it to strengthen local nonprofits.

Sherrie Armstrong, president and CEO of The Community Foundation, is declaring it as an inflection moment, in that the restructuring will allow them to “reimagine nonprofit capacity building in the context of our changing landscape.”

Programs focused on nonprofit leadership development, customized technical assistance and online tools and information will be scaled to complement other available resources and market demand.

Loosely translated, that means, “We are still committed to capacity building, but times have changed and we need a new approach to the work.”

Armstrong says the decision to merge came after a yearlong study by consultants and board members from each organization. “One part was to do a deep dive on what’s happened in 10 years. ‘What’s out there?’ Ten years ago when it started, there weren’t a lot of resources in the market to do capacity building work.”

Kudos to TCF and PNE for recognizing that it’s a new day and for undergoing a critical self-assessment to determine the best next steps with the community in mind. Nonprofit capacity building should be changing significantly right now for many reasons, and big sweeps may often be necessary.—Sheela Nimishakavi and Ruth McCambridge