Nonprofit network honors Nancy Bell

By PAUL COLLINS – Bulletin Staff Writer

Nancy Bell was named the Nonprofit Leader of the Year on Monday at the Nonprofit Leaders Network 2010 Annual Celebration Luncheon.

Bell is the director of Smart Beginnings of Franklin/Patrick, an early childhood initiative, and she was recognized for recruiting members from those counties to the Nonprofit Leaders Network, said Tiffany Haworth. Haworth is the director of the network, which the United Way of Henry County and Martinsville started in 2004.

“The network offers local and regional organizations access to ongoing training, technology resources and assistance in the areas of organizational development, growth and sustainability, resource development, communication and sharing of resources,” a brochure says.

Bell, whose resume includes posts with the city schools, Boys & Girls Clubs and Virginia Museum of Natural History, also was recognized for such things as teaching classes for nonprofit management and writing grants for several organizations, Haworth said in an interview.

“She is an amazing advocate for nonprofits in our community,” Haworth said.

After Haworth announced Bell as the award winner, Bell walked to the stage at the Spencer-Penn Centre and said, “This is like the best honor I’ve ever received.”

About 180 people representing 38 nonprofits attended the luncheon.

Pam Kestner-Chappelear, president of the Council of Community Services in Roanoke, was guest speaker. She talked about challenges facing nonprofits and strategies for nonprofits to prosper.

Generally, less funding is available now to nonprofits from governments and foundations, and federal stimulus money will expire, she said.

She suggested that nonprofits do such things as collaborating in applying for grants; doing self-assessments to improve efficiency, effectiveness and to make sure best practices are being used; and doing more long-range planning.

Kestner-Chappelear also recommended “articulating to the community who we are as a sector and what kind of impact we’re having on the community.”

On the last point, she said, the Council of Community Services, a private, nonprofit agency, did a study in 2008 that showed that in the 2007 fiscal year, the 120 nonprofits responding in the Roanoke Valley (only a fraction of the 650 nonprofits in that region) had a total economic impact of $183 million.

“We are part of the economic engine in our communities,” she said of nonprofits, adding that nonprofits need to develop relationships with economic development groups.

She talked about the importance of financial reporting and how funding agencies want to see the impact that nonprofits are having on the community.

Also, volunteerism has changed, and nonprofits need to respond, she said. The typical volunteer today is looking for a meaningful, short-term assignment, such as volunteering for a special event, she said. Also, whole families may be looking for opportunities to volunteer as a way to spend time together, and young people, such as college students, may want to volunteer just for an afternoon, she said.

She praised the Nonprofit Leaders Network, and especially the increase in volunteerism. According to the network’s website, “Overall, volunteerism has increased 300 percent to member organizations since 2004.”

“That’s awesome,” Kestner-Chappelear said.