Nonprofit Spotlight: Effective philanthropy is more than money | nnbusinessview.com

Nonprofit Spotlight: Effective philanthropy is more than money

The Community Foundation of Western Nevada sponsors this content

Chris Askin

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results" – Albert Einstein

What would Einstein say about the tendency of repeating disappointing and ineffective philanthropy? Laudable charities, donors, and volunteers often devote their energy and resources to improve persistent issues by addressing the symptoms rather than the root causes.

The Community Foundation of Western Nevada is a charity that has awarded more than 9,000 grants totaling about $115 million over the past 20 years. We have seen inspiringly effective philanthropy, as well as examples of grants that did little to improve situations or lives. Through experience, we have learned that money is just a part of the solution. Measurable, sustainable improvement is more likely to happen when money is combined with partnership, leadership and innovation.

Housing is an issue that cannot be solved by money alone. The Community Foundation's current project, The Dorms on Sage Street, is a public/private/social partnership to bring a creative solution to a complex problem. The Community Foundation was compelled to step up and take a leadership role by the encouragement, support, and assistance of businesses engaged in community leadership work.

The sometimes subtle — but always powerful voice — of business partnering with the Community Foundation to create solutions has become a growing force to take on some of our most challenging issues.

Members of the Community Foundation Corporate Philanthropy Partners include Atlantis Casino Resort and Spa, Barrick Gold, Charles Schwab Bank, Chase International, Dickson Realty, EDAWN (Economic Development Agency of Western Nevada), International Test Solutions, JPMorgan Chase & Co., KNPB, Nature's Bakery, NV Energy, Raley's, Renown Health, Wells Fargo, plus one that wishes to remain anonymous. I thank them for their vision.

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Additional corporations are helping immensely to bring to Reno the Dorms on Sage Street for 200 low-income workers. Many organizations, individuals and companies have stepped up with donations and expertise, but without the leadership of the City of Reno, Gorelick Rentals, Tolles Development, Summit Engineering, Q & D Construction, and Pezonella & Associates, the Dorms on Sage Street could simply not happen.

Amid the speculation about how the project will unfold, one persistent misconception is that the Dorms on Sage Street is housing for the homeless. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As currently designed, the Dorms on Sage Street is primarily transitional housing for low-income working people. To qualify to move in, a resident, meeting with a leasing agent, must prove they have income of more than $1,300 a month, roughly the equivalent to minimum wage for a full-time worker. For retirees that income may be from other sources such as Social Security. Applicants must meet the minimum income level, which will allow them to pay the rent with roughly 30 percent of their income.

This will be a safe environment. We anticipate that many, and perhaps most, of the residents will have their own vehicles, so secure parking is part of the design. This complex will not be unlike many apartment complexes, although the tradeoff for the low rent is the dorm concept – a private room for one person, with a shared restroom and kitchen. We anticipate this to be transitional or bridge housing as most residents will be saving up to move to an apartment.

We have broken ground and the delivery of the buildings is scheduled for mid-August. Following the placement of the buildings and connections to utilities, work on the grounds will take place, adding landscaping, parking, and other amenities. We are incredibly grateful to the donors, the businesses highlighted above and many others for their leadership and contributions of expertise and services, who are making this project possible. Contributions by community-minded contractors will be in excess of $1 million. More than $1 million in cash has been contributed so far from generous donors, which has enabled us to move forward with the very aggressive timeline.

Additional gifts of more than $2 million are still required to complete the project, so please help spread the word. I can be point of contact for interested donors and am very happy to meet with any interested parties.

The Community Foundation is profoundly grateful for our partners and welcomes everyone's ideas, support, and engagement. If you can help, please call me at 775-333-5499.

This article was written by Chris Askin, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Western Nevada, which sponsored this content.