A Way to Work Together
The last thing a busy executive director needs is one more meeting, Beth Stephens of the Ozark Natural Science Center told a roomful of executive directors gathered at the Center for Nonprofits at St. Mary’s and then she proposed one more meeting.
Since mid-summer a dozen executive directors in northwest Arkansas region have been participating in an informal monthly meeting where they can share challenges and solutions as well as their calendars.
The topics include what ever is on their minds that day, Angie Allbright of the Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter explained. At a recent meeting, she had hiring on her mind so that became the topic of the day so each participant could share both horror stories and tips.
In between meetings, the discussions continue via a LinkedIn page where coordinator Beth Stephens, executive director of the Ozark Natural Science Center, posts reminders and questions for all the executive directors to consider. She plans to add a master calendar to help each agency plan events that won’t compete with other nonprofit events. In northwest Arkansas, the nonprofit calendar can be crowded and everyone benefits when they work together.
Although it wasn’t a result of the new alliance, a recent weekend at the Natural Science Center for children who had been residents of the Women’s Shelter is a good example of the kind of cooperation that helps all the nonprofits, Allbright said. Fourteen children spent the weekend at the Science Center and for some it was their first experience with the outdoors. They learned about Ozark natural history with hands on science, a night hike and a campfire program.
The partnership between the Shelter and Science Center is an excellent example of regional nonprofits working collaboratively, Stephens said.
Partnerships between nonprofits are becoming even more important recently, Allbright added. Foundations and other organizations that fund nonprofits look for such collaborations. Although it’s a national trend, she believes northwest Arkansas is a head of the game. With organizations like the alliance and central locations like the Centers for Nonprofit run by the Jones Trust in both Rogers and Springdale, it’s easier for nonprofits to work together.
“When we work together, our accomplishments have far stronger impact,” agreed Stephens. “We’re greater than the sum of our independent parts.”
The alliance meets monthly, usually early in the morning at the Center for Nonprofits in Rogers. A sister organization meets in nearby Washington County and both Stephens and Allbright — as representatives of organizations that serve both counties — are involved in both.