The long game
Project Renewal is looking at the long game.
The Quad Cities / Davenport-based organization provides education and after-school programming for low-income youth after school year-round and also during the summer. Last year, the organization raised $20,000 through a Quad Cities Community Foundation 2018 Challenge Grant, enabling them to focus on relationship-building with high school students, grow their operating fund and most recently, open an Nonprofit Endowment Fund at the Community Foundation.
Partnering with the Community Foundation has been a game-changer, said Executive Director Ann Schwickerath. “The Community Foundation listens—they understand how organizations are serving our community and are committed to helping us successfully fulfill our mission,” she said. “They facilitate community members to make giving decisions that are impactful, allowing all of us to work together.”
Project Renewal is a great example of the deep impact an endowment can have on an organization and the surrounding community, said Sherry Ristau, president and CEO at the Community Foundation, who said she aspires for the Community Foundation to be known as the premiere place to build endowment in the region.
The opening of the new endowment is exciting, Schwickerath added, because it expands the options for donors to give in a meaningful way, especially as the organization continues to grow to meet needs in the Quad Cities. “We want to ensure the stability of Project Renewal’s services match the increased stability in participation by our families,” she said. “More youth are staying with us longer. This increases the positive outcomes in their lives and in turn the future of our community.”
The endowed fund is also an important fundraising tool, she added. “We want to be as supportive and flexible with our donors as we can. This helps keep our services impactful, resilient, and adaptive—us to grow with our youth, help be prepared for the unexpected, and continuously serve our community.”
Alex Cahill, development director at Project Renewal, agreed and said the endowment is a commitment to the viability of Project Renewal. “We want to be a long-term organization and when we’re in a time of need, we will now always have a permanent fund and stable account to draw from,” he said.
He added the Community Foundation has been a great partner. “As we’re trying to increase our support, participation and donation opportunities, they are a great resource to have at the table because of their expertise and experience,” he said.
The dollars raised through last year’s 2018 Challenge Grant has been split among the Project Renewal’s general operating fund, Future Fund and the new Nonprofit Endowment Fund. Some of the dollars in the Future Fund will be used to specifically to increase outreach for high schoolers to create more opportunities and experiences to prepare them for meaningful careers after high school.
“We want to create a lifelong relationship with them to help them grow,” Cahill said.
Instead of the relationship ending with the student when they graduate high school, he hopes Project Renewal will be a support system for families and students long after they turn 18 years old. Students could return to the organization for mentoring, help with college or even a month of rent. While the students are still in high school, the organization will offer more post-graduate resources, including late-night sessions to talk about post-secondary education options and what life will look like after graduation.
It’s all about building relationships with the students, Cahill added. “It’s a unique niche we have,” he said. “We have the ability to connect with these students in elementary school and then partner with them as they grow. With this new initiative, we want to partner with them for life.”
Schwickerath hopes donors will take advantage of the Nonprofit Endowment Fund at the Community Foundation as a new way to give. “We hope they give because they recognize the value of the service we provide to youth and their families,” she said. “A faithful friend of ours once said, ‘Project Renewal’s service is high impact, has low overhead, and changes peoples’ lives.’”