Brian McIntosh and Jayson Murray, who run the Columbia Valley Makerspace Society, know how to make pretty much everything from robots to quilts to stained-glass windows. But as the society enters its second year, the visionary engineers have realized they don’t quite know how to build their non-profit society.
“We’re good at the Makerspace; we’re not good at the non-profit space,” said Mr. Murray.
Enter the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) and its Non-profit Advisors Program that connects non-profits with advisors who can help the groups run themselves more like businesses. The program also subsidizes costs for consulting work.
CBT communications director Delphi Hoodicoff said the program was developed because residents wanted to see more supports in place to help non-profits help their communities.
“The program supports non-profit organizations to build capacity, become more sustainable and become more efficient,” she said, adding that it can help non-profits with strategic planning, human resources, financial management, governance and community relationships.
When Mr. McIntosh heard about the program and that it could fund 80 per cent of the costs for strategic-planning work, he said: “I thought, ‘Oh my god, that’s just too good.’”
The Makerspace leapt at the opportunity and brought on Magi Scallion, a consultant CBT recommended, to develop their plan. When Ms. Scallion arrived for their initial meeting, Mr. Murray was blunt about why they reached out to her.
“Basically this is Brian and I crying for help,” he told her.
Under her direction, Mr. Murray, Mr. McIntosh and three volunteers brainstormed about the group’s strengths, weaknesses and pressing needs.
“I think it went super well. There was lots of passion and ideas, which was great,” Ms. Scallion said after the meeting. “I like to give people usable strategic plans that provide them a vision that’s very longterm and big but also a concrete step-by-step plan for the next three years so they get well on their way. That’s what I pride myself in providing, and I think that that focus also creates results.”
Ms. Scallion then held conversations with local leaders and other stakeholders the Makerspace identified to further outline a course of action. Then she developed a 23-page strategic plan with recommendations on how the Makerspace can set itself up for success. Next steps include developing job descriptions for board members, recruiting business-minded directors and finding a home for the Makerspace.
Mr. Murray and Mr. McIntosh readily admit they get distracted by “shiny things” – like all the neat programs and technology they want to bring to the Valley – and said it was helpful to have the organizational tasks ahead outlined to keep them focused.
“It was a great process that has given us a clear roadmap, confirming our suspicions of where our weak areas are and showing us how to go about strengthening them,” Mr. Murray said.
As for the shiny things, Ms. Scallion hopes to see them stay.
“I want all of the great ideas to remain in place and to happen,” she said. “I just want to help build the foundation so that they can happen efficiently and effectively.”
Last year the Non-profit Advisors Program supported 16 organizations in the Valley. Registered non-profits can find out more and request support by visiting www.ourtrust.org/our-work/community/non-profit-advisors-program/.