Lending a Hand to Nonprofits

By Beacon Staff

It all started in a parking lot. That’s how Flathead Nonprofit Development Partnership founder Lex Blood starts the story of how he first organized Montana’s largest nonprofit training group a decade ago.

Today, NpDP has helped more than 250 nonprofit organizations in Northwest Montana, through training seminars and networking events. There are more than 400 nonprofits in the Flathead Valley, 100 of which are churches. Coordinator Chany Ockert says her job is vital because, in the last three years, more than 2,000 nonprofits have lost their tax-exempt status in Montana. The numbers are even more staggering at the national level.

“There was no local resource for nonprofits and to get training you had to go elsewhere,” Blood said. “We felt we had the resources right here in the valley.”

It was 10 years ago that Blood was standing in a parking lot listening to the executive director of a local nonprofit vent about all of the troubles she was having. Blood said while most nonprofits are well intentioned, some volunteers and directors are overwhelmed by the duties of managing people, money and mission.

In the six weeks between the organization’s first and second meetings in 2003, six executive directors and key personnel left local nonprofit groups.

“It was a perfect storm situation,” Blood said.

Two years later, NpDP held its first training program and since then it has hosted more than 100 events. From September to June, the group hosts monthly brown bag lunch seminars that bring dozens of nonprofit representatives together. The group also holds one or two larger seminars every year. On May 9, NpDP is presenting “Contemporary Nonprofit Challenges: How to Manage Risk” from 1 to 5 p.m. at Fun Beverage in Kalispell.

Museum at Central School executive director Gil Jordan says NpDP has provided invaluable training and networking opportunities.

“It’s been night and day because before they came there was almost no communication between the nonprofits in the valley,” he said. “They’ve done a huge job.”

The NpDP has an annual budget of about $20,000 and is funded through donations and the Sustainability Fund. Blood, who serves on the steering committee, believes that in the future the NpDP can grow and expand its programs.

“We want to provide the best training we can and we’re dedicated to that,” he said.

For more information, visit www.npdp.org.

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