“Say ‘goodbye’ to the Center for Nonprofits and say ‘hello’ to Venture Forward!,” emcee Alison Lebovitz said as this year’s conference, the Tennessee Valley Institute, drew to a close. “This isn’t some sleepy training organization. The Center for Nonprofits is making an effort to be out in front, drive transformational impact, and nurture and grow innovative ideas. In short, we need an image that matches our impact, We are not going to be satisfied with the status quo, we’re going to think big, take risks, and create bold social impact,” Ms. Lebovitz went on to say. “If you are daring to challenge the status quo, if you’re brave enough to take a calculated risk we are here. Together we will Venture Forward with you.”
For almost 20 years, the Center for Nonprofits has successfully worked to strengthen nonprofit organizations by providing tools and resources to help them grow and operate with excellence, said officials. “The Center for Nonprofits has done excellent work," said Venture Forward Advisory Committee Chair Sandra Brewer. "We currently have 270 nonprofit and affiliate business members and continue to grow our membership. We also have provided training to more than 2,000 nonprofit executives, staff and board members in this year alone. But we knew that was not enough. If we really want to see our community transformed, we need a space that is dedicated to inspiring change makers and sparking positive momentum for nonprofits.”
According to United Way President and CEO, Lesley Scearce, the change from Center for Nonprofits to Venture Forward is the first of many changes the United way is making, “For more than 95 years United Way has been investing in great programs that do incredible work, “said Ms. Scearce. “However, even with those heroic efforts we are not moving the needle fast enough on our community’s biggest problems, in fact in some places it is getting worse.”
That assessment is supported by census data that shows that, from the year 2000 to 2015 the child poverty rate in Hamilton County increased by nearly 39 percent. Additionally, according to a report released by Chattanooga 2.0, six in 10 local children show up to school at risk of not being prepared for school.
“For nearly a year United Way has been engaged in a strategic planning process that centers around one big question: how can we work more collaboratively to accelerate the rate of change,” said Board Chair Mike St. Charles. “This change to Venture Forward underscores our support for innovative partners and programs that help us move the needle on these key issues more quickly.”
Currently, Venture Forward offers training and resources around issues ranging from governance, marketing and communications to financial management. Venture Forward plans to continue those offerings. “The trainings and classes, individual workshops we do with nonprofits are important and we will continue to offer those," said Venture Forward Executive Director, Laura McCann. “This is really about adding new programs and offerings that will help us think creatively about how we solve big problems with our members and partners. Venture Forward exists to inspire those hand-raisers and game-changers to be bold and think differently. Chattanooga is a hub for innovation in the business sector and we think the United Way through Venture Forward can do that for social sector as well.”
When asked how this effort related back changes in United Way’s strategy, Ms. Scearce said, “We know that our value is in accelerating impact, mobilizing people, and pulling the right organizations together to affect change. In partnership with our board, volunteers, corporate investors, and funded partners we are exploring a host of new and exciting ways to take bold action around some key issues.”
For more information about Venture Forward please contact Cathy Mendez at United Way of Greater Chattanooga’s Venture Forward at 752-0329.