Louise Corzine of Oak Park, along with her colleagues, decided to start an organization geared toward serving seniors, but didn’t know where to go from there.
That’s why she attended a recent community forum on June 17 at Malcolm X Westside Learning Center, 4624 W. Madison St. She was one of about 40 people in a crowd mostly made up of nonprofit leaders who live in Chicago’s West Side and western suburbs.
The four-hour forum, which was co-sponsored by Austin Weekly News and a host of other organizations, was designed to be a one-stop shop for resource sharing, networking and learning new techniques for all the organizations to increase their impact within the communities they serve and beyond.
Doug Dixon, one of the forum organizers, said the event isn’t so much about training; rather, it was a brainstorming session for people to come together and share their experiences.
“We want to improve the flow of social capital between Oak Park, the West Side and adjacent communities,” he said.
Corzine said the whole event was a fact-finding session for her because her organization, Arbor West Senior Neighbors, is just getting started and haven’t received their non-profit status yet. She said the organization would be an advocacy group for seniors in Oak Park and the West Side, helping them to take advantage of services in their respective communities or possibly work toward creating them if needed.
But like most non-profit organizations, they often seek out funding from the state to run their programs.
State Sen. Don Harmon (39th) was the keynote speaker at the event and gave an update on the state budget, which state lawmakers have been fighting to get approved for the past 11 months.
“There is no excuse, but the struggle in Springfield is different than the struggle you are facing,” he said. “Nothing compares to your position on the front lines.”
He encouraged those in attendance to call Gov. Bruce Rauner and even gave out the governor’s number. State Rep. Camille Lilly (78th) encouraged those in attendance to do the same.
“We are working together to make sure we are addressing the budget,” she said. “Don’t stop doing what you are doing. Do not stop engaging yourself in the process.”
Connie McClendon, founder of God Breathed Ministries, a West Side organization geared toward providing high school students with college exam preparation and taking them on tours to various colleges across the country expressed concern about state colleges not having enough money to stay open.
“Eastern Illinois University is in danger of closing in the fall and Western Illinois University isn’t far behind,” said Harmon, confirming McClendon’s worries, before offering some reassurance. “I do think we will be able to do something to find money to keep the schools open in the fall.”
In lieu of state funding, some of the nonprofit experts advised the leaders on cultivating revenue streams that aren’t as reliant on government funding. Delia Coleman, vice president of strategy and policy for Forefront, a nonprofit support group, shared how her organization raised a substantial amount of money through social media fundraising.
Forefront, Coleman said, partnered with other nonprofits on a campaign called “Giving Tuesday,” an international day of giving driven by social media. Last year, the effort netted $6 million, she said. This year, organizers of the campaign, which takes place on Nov. 29, have a goal $9 million.