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Nonprofits leaders will meet March 20

The economic future of nonprofits will be the focus of a summit next month in Bemidji.

The United Way of Bemidji Area, in cooperation with Community Resource Connections and the Beltrami Area Service Collaborative, will hold a Nonprofit Survival Summit for area nonprofit leaders March 20 at First Lutheran Church.

"We want to see nonprofits survive," said Ashli Bowen, executive director of the United Way. "We want to contribute to the economic development of this community."

With the current economic situation, more and more people need human services, Bowen said. At the same time, she said, nonprofits are facing budget cuts.

In a news release announcing the summit, Barry Yocom, who served on the board of the recently-dissolved Healthy Community Health Kids, said, "The economic climate of the country is offering serious challenges to all nonprofits."

Healthy Community Health Kids, a Bemidji nonprofit that focused on primary prevention, dissolved at the end of last year due to lack of funding after being in operation since 1994.

"Critical services that make Bemidji a community of quality could be lost," Yocom said. "We must have a frank and focused conversation about how we will exist in the future."

The day-long summit will provide time for structured discussion about the future of nonprofits and participants will hear details of Beltrami County's new strategic plan, which outlines some parameters for county partnerships with nonprofit agencies.

"This is just one of the many voices that have sent a strong message to nonprofits that we have to rethink the way we do business," said Ruth Sherman, executive director of Community Resource Connections, in the news release. "Foundations, government agencies and clients who receive services are asking for new strategies - we need to use the current economic crises as motivation to make positive changes."

Community Resource Connections is an area nonprofit membership organization that facilitates collaborative efforts among 42 area nonprofits.

Bowen said the United Way is anxious to support area nonprofits as they work together to address their collective future.

"And in this case, it has to be more than money - we need the collective wisdom of board members and executive directors to help create system alignment and define the nonprofit future of this community," she said in the news release.

"We've all been told that tomorrow will be very different, that some nonprofits may not make it through these economic times - but demand and need is increasing," Bowen added. "Together, we need to identify where to stay the course given the environment we are in, what adjustments are being made and should be made, and what the imperatives are going forward."

Patrick Grundmeier, executive director of the Beltrami Area Service Collaborative, agrees that the summit is important for nonprofit leaders in the community to attend.

"I hope our nonprofit leaders can work hard together in these challenging times to seek out opportunities to strengthen our collaboration," he said in the news release. "We have so many innovative and motivated people in our service-providing agencies that I'm confident if there are new and efficient ways to work together and help our community continue to thrive, this group of leaders can find them."

Bowen said the summit is only the beginning of the conversation, and nonprofit leaders who wish to help shape the future of the nonprofit community will need to make a commitment to implementing change.

"We offer guidance, facilitation services and other process resources," she said, "but the knowledge, expertise, passion and commitment to see it through will have to come from those who are front and center of every nonprofit in this community."

Nonprofit board members and executive directors are encouraged to attend the summit March 20 in the First Lutheran Church community room. Registration and coffee will begin at 8:30 a.m. There will be a break for lunch and then the summit will continue until 4 p.m. RSVPs are appreciated for adequate preparation; contact the United Way at 444-8929 or