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August 10, 2010; Source: Lowell.com | The Kennedy/Hatch Serve America Act provided for a new Nonprofit Capacity Building Program to be administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The Corporation’s management, prior to current CEO Patrick Corvington, did its best to ditch this program and had to be ordered by Congress (due to effective advocacy by nonprofit leadership groups, particularly the National Council on Nonprofits) to appropriate funds.

The program got a measly $1 million, which the Corporation finally awarded to five organizations to “build and implement performance management systems.” In Lowell, Mass. they’re excited that one of the winners is the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, participating as a partner to the lead applicant, the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston, which is getting a two-year grant of $220,000 to build the capacities of groups working on improving educational and financial outcomes for young people aged 12-24. The grant seems pretty small given the rather large region (Boston, Lowell, Lynn, and other places) it is intended to serve.

Here at NPQ, we are pleased that one of the five capacity-building grantees is the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, which is led by NPQ editorial committee member Jon Pratt, with the Nonprofits Assistance Fund, led by Kate Barr, also on our editorial committee, as one of MCN’s partner organizations. Congratulations Jon and Kate.

However, let’s be straight about this program. It’s tiny and it’s not consistent with the important role it was supposed to play as outlined by the late Senator Kennedy. If it weren’t for the sector’s lobbying, the program wouldn’t be in existence at all. The role of the federal government in funding capacity-building for a wide-range of nonprofits, including small nonprofits, merits attention, because, considering the important role nonprofits are playing in this country’s recovery, $1 million doesn’t do the trick.—Rick Cohen