Community Resource Connections, the region's Council of Nonprofits, has announced an expansion of its membership base and a revitalized working relationship with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.
Community Resource Connections is a membership organization recognized for its work in facilitating collaborative efforts among local area service providers. Each month CRC staff members facilitate a variety of networking meetings for area professionals as a means of improving working relationships.
These efforts are aimed at ensuring integrated and effective service delivery through the sharing of information, financial resources and professional support.
An outgrowth of ongoing networking, information gathering, and organization of group events, CRC staff find themselves uniquely aware of services on a level that most people don't even begin to imagine. According to Sherman, "Even service participants only get a glimpse of the agency program they use - they don't get to see the bigger picture and the reasons things work as they do. As well, agency personnel tend to specialize in certain areas and as a result drift away from learning more about things they don't often encounter."
It is this larger perspective that lead CRC, previously known as the Bemidji Area Council of Nonprofits (BACN), to develop a working relationship with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits in the late 1990's. Dennis Montgomery, Director of BACN in the 90's, was well aware that the information that was being gathered locally could help MCN, a state wide organization with a membership of over 2000 nonprofits, better advocate for the needs of northwestern Minnesota nonprofits at the State and Federal Level.
The past ten years CRC and MCN have functioned as affiliates. Any nonprofit in the four-county area - Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater and Hubbard - joining CRC or MCN was dually enrolled in both organizations. Affiliation improved communication, creating a means of funneling information to and from greater Minnesota. However, while beneficial for many, this relationship has had its drawbacks. Membership fees for the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, while based on budget size, proved too high for some. Others have had a difficult time connecting with an organization so distant and so virtual. As a result, CRC and MCN have chosen a different path for the future. Rather than serving under MCN as an affiliate, CRC will stand beside MCN as a partner. This partnership will allow CRC to reduce fees and open up membership to the greater public.
"We want to move away from the concept of membership fees serving as a revenue stream and move toward development of a collective voice for northwest Minnesota. We want to serve as the information mouthpiece for any northwestern nonprofit that wants to be heard as well as for all people wanting to support nonprofits" said CRC Chairpwoman Jeanne Edevold Larson.
Reducing membership fees to $25 a year will help area nonprofits afford membership. Moreover, the $25 a nonprofit spends on CRC membership benefits will be reimbursed them by MCN through a coupon worth $25 off of MCN membership.
Wanda Hoyum of the Beltrami History Center said joining CRC is useful "because it is impossible, particularly as a staff of one, to stay in touch with everyone and everything that you need to do a good job as a nonprofit director. CRC makes it possible and fun."
Rebecca Schueller of Evergreen Services said, "CRC provides great networking opportunities for nonprofits to share information and resources, meet new staff in different agencies and come together to address common concerns. "
The public, as well as nonprofits, is invited to consider supporting nonprofits through membership in Community Resource Connections. Membership enrollment is open during the month of February. Applications, benefit information, and access to CRC's online Volunteer and Rec are available at the agency website: www.crcinform.org .
Ruth Sherman is CRC executive director.