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Washington Voices

Conference aims to help nonprofit groups

Thu., Feb. 10, 2011, midnight

Classes will cover range of issues, including grants, marketing

Next Thursday representatives from area nonprofits will attend the first Inland Northwest Nonprofit Conference at the Spokane Masonic Center. Hosted by AE Consulting, the conference aims to bring together experts in the field of fund development with those most in need of their advice.

Andrea Estes of AE Consulting said, “This is a new event for Eastern Washington. I’m a Spokane native, but I lived in Seattle and worked for a nonprofit. I attended conferences like this and gleaned a tremendous amount of valuable information from them.”

There’s no shortage of nonprofit groups in the area. According to Estes, Spokane County has 4,092 registered organizations and Kootenai County 270.

At next Thursday’s event, volunteer presenters will cover topics such as grant writing, board development, capacity building, marketing, financial planning, and legal issues. Organizers have scheduled time for networking opportunities, as well.

Estes said she expects the grant-writing class to be especially well-attended. Brian Holloway, development director for the Arc of Spokane, will teach the workshop. “Funding is very competitive,” he said. “Organizations are tightening their belts.”

Holloway plans to explain the components of grants that get funded and identify “what’s going to sell the proposal – what’s going to get attention.”

The mysteries of grant/proposal writing often confound smaller nonprofits who can’t afford to hire a grant writer. “Nonprofit folks dream big,” Holloway said. “It’s important to be able to translate that dream into concrete ideas.”

Nonprofits also face the challenge of limited marketing budgets. Presenters Ed and Tine Reese from Sixth Man Marketing will facilitate an online marketing workshop. “We’re going to talk about the elephant in the living room – marketing,” said Ed Reese. “Many nonprofits can’t afford pricey traditional marketing, but there are free or low-cost tools they can use.”

For example, Google analytics tracks website data and can help organizations reach their target audience – and it’s free. But Reese said many nonprofits don’t understand the value of tracking who watches their videos, who visits their site and who downloads their PDFs.

He said, “You need to be able to bring the online world to the offline world.” He added most funds are still generated from face-to-face meetings.

That kind of expertise is what makes this conference so valuable, Estes said. Representatives from the Salvation Army, SNAP, Spokane Police Museum and Christ Clinic are among those who’ve already signed up to attend, she said.

Antony Chiang, president of Empire Health Foundation said, “The foundation believes in the importance of capacity building in our region’s nonprofit sector. While capacity building takes many forms, the Nonprofit Conference represents an exciting new resource for our region’s nonprofits in the area of professional development.”

Estes hopes this event will be the first of many to empower and educate those who facilitate these organizations in the community.

“The recession has affected nonprofits,” she said. “However, the ones that are aware of the resources available to them have better potential to weather the storm and maintain services.”

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