One of the greatest challenges of the past generation in the nonprofit space has centered on the emergence of Millennials into leadership roles within the nonprofit organizational structure. How would Millennials mesh with the organizational structures that were built for previous generations? How would this demographic relate to an industry often focused on big gifts and grants? Could their voice, somewhat inexperienced as it was, be heard above the normal tones found within many nonprofits with deep histories in local communities?
In Mobile, Alabama, a group of young professionals, with a common belief that a big impact on the area’s children could be created by a small motivated group, sought to find a place to plug in. While many within the group had been active in a variety of nonprofits throughout their developmental years in the community, they were looking for something a little bit different.
This group and others in their network were looking for a way to help on a larger scale. They wondered whether it was possible to have greater impact by supporting the structures that were already in place, but by doing so in a vastly different mentality within their community.
In May of 2012, Fuse Project was established, and in September of that year they received their 501(c)(3) exemption, with a stated goal of supporting tangible, realistic projects that benefit children in the South Alabama region.
Today, Fuse Project is dedicated to providing the spark for innovation, funding and implementation of projects benefiting children along Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Fuse Project invests in initiatives promoting the health, fitness, education and social responsibility of the children. It supports existing philanthropies with specific project ideas and grass-roots efforts by motivated members of the community. Whether it is helping fund an after-school program for underprivileged children, or helping a motivated neighborhood revitalize a local park, Fuse Project is ready to help.
While many groups have a similar vision, the Fuse mantra of “If it’s not WOW, it’s not worth doing” has led to a great connection with the community, as well as fundraising goals uncommon for such a new organization. Whether it is their cornerstone summer Dragon Boat Festival or their Order of Fuse (a takeoff on the Mardi Gras association, so common in Mobile) during the Mardi Gras season, this mantra has guided the organization to constantly reassess the ways that they can create a great experience for participants, all the while raising significant funds for local organizations supporting children.
Fuse Project has enjoyed significant impact in the region by bringing together a style that invites community participation, builds excitement, and carries through by assisting the organizations that provide direct service, like Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Alabama, Soccer for Life (a program started by a student at the nearby University of South Alabama who took examples from his native Zimbabwe and utilizes them to bring access to inner-city youth), an expansion of Pritchard Preparatory School (a private school providing low- to no-cost tuition for students in one of the most economically challenged parts of the South Alabama region), and other exciting projects.
The group has eschewed traditional fundraisers like 5Ks, annual dinners, and golf outings for events that bring both dollars and interest to the work that they support, including the Dragon Boat Festival, New Year’s Eve parties, Light the Fuse dinners, and Order of Fuse. For example, their Dragon Boat Festival in 2015 had 40 teams of 22 participating, another 5000 people in attendance, and a total of $150,000 raised – all in only the second year of the event! No doubt the 2016 event will shatter the previous fundraising mark. Their goal, by 2020, is to raise one million dollars annually from all of their programs to benefit local organizations.
Friday, learn more about the Fuse Project management style from Adrienne Golden, Executive Director of Fuse Project.
This article is reprinted from Vol. 3, No. 2, of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today.
Join our Tuesday night #nonprofitchat on Twitter or our video chat at https://zoom.us/j/436302868 at 7 p.m. Eastern Time each week. Today, April 11, 2017, Hugh Ballou interviews Dr. Thyonne Gordon about Creating Effective Boards. Dr. Gordon will share from her vast experience of being a Nonprofit Executive Director, consultant to nonprofits, and board capacity building expert for major foundations.
Join the conversation on ZOOM https://zoom.us/j/436302868
Or watch the live stream on Facebook
During this interactive session, participants are invited to respond on Twitter or Facebook to the following 4 questions. Look for #nonprofitchat in your search and use #nonprofitchat in your answers, please.
Here are the questions for April 11, 2017:
Q1. How and where do I find good board members?
Q2. What do I say to candidates to join my board instead of another board?
Q3. Should my nonprofit board be diverse? Why? Should the board mirror the community we serve?
Q4. How do I get board members to give money?
For more information on the weekly #nonprofitchat programs, go to http://nonprofitchat.com. We’ll “see” YOU on the call.
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