Connecting With Our Grantees

There are few things more humbling than assembling a group of nonprofit leaders, volunteers and staff in a room and hearing them tell their story. Those countless, thankless hours spent in the trenches all recounted later with pride and passion.

Ottumwa Boxing Club receives Bright Ideas Grant. (Courtesy of the Ottumwa Courier)

When asked, the answer is always “..heck yes it was, and is, worth it! Changed my life, maybe even saved it, and now I want to give back.”  We hear this time and again 3 times a year when we convene the recipients of the latest round of grants from our Bright Ideas Community Enrichment Fund.

Sure it would be easy to simply wire-transfer the awarded grant directly to the nonprofit’s checking account, email them the grant agreements along with reporting requirements and never actually interact with them in any meaningful way at all. Nice and clean. Almost as easy as pressing the “Easy Button” made famous by Staples years ago.  In fact, many funders spend quite a bit of time trying not to interact with grantees in the sake of efficiency and streamlining – Click and Give comes to mind, automatic renewals for long-time grantees and so forth.

On the other hand, it is so much more impactful (and sometimes emotional) to bring the grantees together in one room and have them share their story – the story of their organization, the work they do and those they serve. Most importantly it’s a chance to tell the others in the room how they are going to use this grant specifically to further their work.  Like a fanatical coupon clipper, our nonprofit(s) know how to stretch a dollar and turn it into two, three or more dollars through leverage and sweat equity.

We emphasize the importance of this gathering because even though those in the room are all in the “nonprofit world” that doesn’t necessarily mean our paths cross on a regular basis, if at all. Since launching the Bright Ideas Fund in 2011, every single round has had at lease one new grantee in the mix – including this last one (see Ottumwa Boxing Club above). That is 5 ½ years of grants and we’re still meeting new faces.  In fact, we now know there are more than 100 nonprofits serving Ottumwa and Wapello County.

We also hope for connection and synergy amongst themselves – maybe one organization hears something from another that seeds an idea for a collaboration between the two. We all know there is strength in numbers and this is the perfect way to create an environment where ideas can flow freely.  Self-servingly, it does create an opportunity for us at Legacy Foundation to visit face to face with those who work tirelessly to make Ottumwa a better place.  Truth is, I still have the check in my hand until they say “hello”.

So…a big “Thank You” to all of our grantees and nonprofits – you don’t hear it enough.  We are all grateful for the work you do and the service you provide.