Unexpected Gift Lifts Spirits, Builds Capacity

$53,929 Awarded for Professional Development

Sometimes, when we least expect it, a gift can really brighten things up and put a whole new spin on our outlook. This was the exact intent when all currently active grantees were invited to take advantage of a non-competitive award. 

During the first half of 2009, the John Rex Endowment staff noticed a recurring theme in conversations with agencies. All too often, budget cuts meant eliminating expenses for travel and professional development. “Missed opportunities in the short term, for the people working to help our community’s children, can equal a disadvantage in long-term capacity,” said Kevin Cain, president and CEO of the John Rex Endowment. “Believing in the importance of access to new ideas and latest trainings, we saw an opportunity to fund professional development for the agencies we support.” 
Essentially, each qualified organization was offered up to $2000 to support professional development and training for full or part-time staff and volunteers. It was simple and straightforward - a gift with a clear purpose. In early December, those gifts were delivered to 27 deserving agencies.         

A Little Goes a Long Way

The old adage rings true when it comes to the tough choices being made by nonprofits in today’s economy – a little really does go a long way. “The responses we received upon offering the award reassured us of the need,” said McAllister Myhra, director of operations for the John Rex Endowment. “Some responded almost instantaneously while others literally danced when they heard the news – or so we’ve been told. Many knew exactly how they’d use it right away.”
The funds are being used in numerous ways to fit each organization’s specific needs. Some agencies are sending their teams places while others are bringing experts in for training. Recipients are pursuing certifications, attending national meetings and conferences, incorporating new technologies, researching best practices, taking staff retreats and participating in team building activities. 
Sally Edwards, president of Marbles Kids Museum, was delighted with the unexpected gift and commented, “The professional development award not only helps with dollars but also helps send the message that we can't abandon our long-term focus during a short-term crisis.”
The professional development awards are an extension of the John Rex Endowment’s existing Capacity Building Initiative grants. They are separate from the thirteen grant projects announced in November 2009; however, they fall under the same umbrella of support intended to enhance and strengthen the infrastructure of nonprofits in Wake County.    
“It was our hope that news of the award would serve as a real morale booster and capacity builder, enabling many to reinstate professional development plans that otherwise had been cut from the budget,” said Cain. “For many, it’s offered a chance to turn creative dreams into action steps with tangible results. We’re grateful to be able to work with our partners in this way.”