Published May 27, 2010
Foundation helps partners be
all they can be
works to help nonprofit agencies grow stronger and more
By Pamela Lannom
Theresa Forthofer certainly
appreciates the grant money The Community House receives
from Community Memorial Foundation.
But the executive director
said the other kinds of support the foundation offers
can be just as valuable.
“They invest in the
organizations that they spend their dollars with, so
they make us better and more productive, more efficient,
so their dollars end up going further when they do make
grant awards to us,” she said.
Jeannie Cella, executive
director of Wellness House, agreed.
“We get funding from other
foundations, but we don’t get the kind of building
organizational effectiveness support that Community
Memorial does,” she said. “They really want their
partners to be better at what they do, so it’s not just
handing them a gift; it’s giving them the tools to
This year, for example, The
Community House and Wellness House are two of 15
nonprofit agencies to receive a human resource grant,
which provides a year-long membership to the Management
Association of Illinois.
An association representative
was in Hinsdale Tuesday to conduct a human resources
audit at The Community House. Leaders there plan to
address the areas in which the organization is weak.
Without some outside help,
Forthofer said, making improvements in HR would be
“It’s been on my ‘to do’ list
forever — just to update policies and procedures and
employee manuals and to become more familiar with the
state laws and regulations, which have changed
tremendously in the last couple of years,” she said. “I
couldn’t afford to spend the time or the dollars to get
as much in-depth detail as I’m getting with this grant
and this partnership.”
Cella said having access to
management professionals should mean less learning by
trial and error.
“Hopefully it will help us
make fewer mistakes,” she said.
The two agencies also are
taking advantage of a series of six HR seminars, which
are sponsored by the foundation and presented by the
Forthofer has appreciated the
opportunity to send multiple staff members for training,
all at no cost.
Tracy Boucher, director of
social services for The Community House, attended last
week’s session on performance evaluations. She is
responsible for evaluating three employees and had no
training in doing so prior to last week. She also
attended the previous two sessions on interviewing and
“I’ve been very impressed with
the way the information has been presented,” she said.
“I found it very user-friendly and very understandable
and I feel like, especially the performance evaluation,
I can take what I learned at the workshop and apply it
Human resources is one of five
areas of need grantee partners identified, said Tom
Fuechtmann, a program officer for Community Memorial
Foundation. The other areas are board development, media
awareness, planning and evaluation.
“We take seriously and we put
our money and our resources behind connections, behind
trying to meet the grantees where they are and address
their needs,” Fuechtmann said.
Even though nonprofits have a
different bottom line than for-profit businesses, they
face many of the same issues.
“The challenge in the
nonprofit world is a lot of the people who are leading
nonprofit organizations don’t come from a business
background,” Fuechtmann said. “A number of our executive
directors were promoted up from within, so they were a
nurse or they were a case manager.”
The foundation has been
working to help its grantee partners be more effective
since its inception. Agencies can apply for a technical
grant to help pay for a feasibility study or a strategic
plan. Executive directors can join learning circles
where they meet with their peers to solve organizational
and management issues. A nonprofit looking for better
direction can do a quick assessment online or take part
in a three-month, in-depth analysis.
The challenge grant program
might be one of the best examples of how Community
Memorial Foundation helps grantee partners help
themselves. The foundation agreed to provide a match for
new dollars raised and worked with agencies to help them
improve their fund-raising efforts. The 63 organizations
that participated over the past five years brought in
more than $5 million in new donations, Fuechtmann said.
Because foundation staff
aren’t dealing with the day-to-day needs of feeding the
hungry or sheltering the homeless, they can devote time
to looking at the big picture and finding the best
consultants to assist partner agencies.
And by helping partners
develop a more capable staff, a stronger board and
better programmatic outcomes, the foundation also helps
“We strongly believe as a
foundation that if we’re going to have an impact in the
community on measurably improving health, our partners
need to be as strong as they can possibly be,”
Fuechtmann said. “This is integral to the philosophy of
the foundation. This is how we see ourselves as
change-makers, not just grant-makers.”
— Making a difference is a
yearlong partnership between The Hinsdalean
Community Memorial Foundation, whose mission is to
the health of people work live and
work in the western suburbs.