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Do Nonprofit Leaders Need to Get Out More? Maybe.

For some nonprofit leaders, being able to talk candidly about the challenges their organizations face with someone who really understands is a rare pleasure. For every leader, it’s an invaluable opportunity.

That’s what Beth Raskin, Executive Director of the Kulanu Academy, discovered on a recent visit to Leg Up Farm, led by President and CEO Louie Castriota. Both organizations are First Nonprofit Foundation (FNF) grantees serving special needs children, one in a New York suburb and the other in rural Pennsylvania. FNF connected them to see whether collaborating across the miles could provide benefits that working with local organizations couldn’t.

Envisioning New Possibilities

Leg Up Farm offers a range of therapies on an idyllic 18-acre campus, complete with a riding stable, extensive gardens and hiking paths. Coming from a suburban setting, Beth was inspired. “Visiting Leg Up Farm allowed me to see what could be accomplished given the space, time and passion,” Beth said. “I’m hoping to find facilities to do similar things here. I’ve looked for local farms and it is possible.”

Swapping Regulatory Tales

Talking with Beth gave Louie insight into a different regulatory environment. “It’s very beneficial to learn about an organization in another state because each state interprets and carries out programs in different ways,” Louie said. “You get exposed to new ideas and other ways of doing things.”

An Understanding Ear

Both Beth and Louie said that having an understanding ear was one of the biggest benefits of the visit. “You rarely get a true picture of what other organizations are doing,” Beth said. “It can be hard to have an open, meaningful dialogue with people offering similar services locally.”

“It is nice to be able to connect with other nonprofit leaders because there are some things you can’t talk about candidly with staff,” Louie said. “Having a kind ear, being able to hear about different challenges the other organization has managed successfully, was hugely beneficial.”

A Broader View

Louie is looking forward to visiting Kulanu next. “My thoughts and ideas are shaped by my personal experience with other programs and meeting other leaders,” he said. “I think that’s where the benefit lies, in being exposed to innovations due to different constituencies and environments. It feeds the creative process as you launch and develop programs.”

“I’m grateful to First Nonprofit for prompting us to go do this,” Beth said. “For me, First Nonprofit has not only acted as a donor to assist with current programs, but it is brilliantly allowing us to share experiences with people outside of New York who are doing interesting things. As a small nonprofit, we don’t have the luxury to do that on our own.”

If your organization could use a new perspective, you may benefit from giving it one, literally, by reaching out across the miles. “It’s always helpful to step out of your world and see what other people are doing,” Beth said.

You can also step out without leaving home by reading about what other nonprofits are doing. First Nonprofit offers many educational materials to help the nonprofit sector share knowledge and best practices.

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