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GCN Brings Philanthropic Leaders and Coastal Nonprofits Together

The Momentum Summit—A Day to Explore Opportunities for Collaboration

ATLANTA — Feb. 19, 2013 — A group of 30 philanthropic leaders will arrive on Jekyll Island Thursday to meet with leaders of 50 local nonprofit organizations at the Momentum Summit. For the funders, many visiting for the first time, the goal is to learn more about the unique attributes of these local nonprofits, and the impact they are having on Georgia’s lower coastal communities. The Momentum Summit is the culmination of the intensive, two-year Momentum initiative, focused on building the capacity of nonprofits serving Charlton, Brantley, Camden and Glynn Counties.

As part of the first-ever Momentum Summit, the participants will explore programs, discuss opportunities for collaborative impact, and exchange best practices through roundtable discussions and exercises, presentations, and networking. First on the agenda is a keynote address by Julius Walls, former CEO of the social enterprise Greystone Bakery. 

Building Momentum on Georgia’s Coast

The Momentum initiative was launched in late 2011 by the Georgia Center for Nonprofits (GCN), in partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the St. Marys United Methodist Church Foundation. A 2009 research assessment conducted by the Georgia Center for Nonprofits paved the way, identifying the depth of problems faced by these communities and the daunting challenges faced by the nonprofits that serve them. The report documented that this four-county area faces some of the most persistent poverty, educational challenges, unemployment, health deficits, and negative housing conditions in the state. 

Momentum was designed specifically to help nonprofits tackle pressing needs and deliver greater community impact. Nearly 100 nonprofits with missions ranging from feeding the hungry, to helping youth graduate from high school on time, to creating a sustainable coast, are participating in this two year program, with a group of 25 “core” nonprofits committing to a more rigorous and thorough participation level that includes an intensive learning and coaching process. 

Through training on topics like strategy development and financial management, professional individual consulting, and peer learning, Momentum has built the capacity of these participating nonprofits to better address the issues in their own region. Beyond the intensive training opportunities, local nonprofits have had the chance to sit down at the same table to talk about shared challenges and seek areas of collaboration. 

A Game Changer for Coastal Nonprofits

Rick Townsend, CEO of the Golden Isles Career Academy, has been able to offer the assistance of his students to other organizations while reaping the benefits of fellow nonprofit expertise as well. “Working with the other nonprofits in the area has been amazing,” Townsend said. “There’s a lot of need in the coastal community, but there’s a lot of support and pride in the coastal community as well.”

Over the past 18 months, nonprofits have increased performance and solidified their strategic plans, and are now prepared to talk with philanthropic leaders about their funding needs. GCN President and CEO Karen Beavor acknowledges the transformation of Momentum nonprofits to higher levels of performance and greater impact. “Coastal nonprofits have wonderful leaders with the energy and will to change,” said Beavor. “It’s really been an amazing place to work and a place where GCN can bring all of its assets to bear on big problems and create bigger results.”

GCN’s Beavor believes that Momentum has been a game changer for Georgia’s coastal communities, and could be a model for collaboration in other areas of rural Georgia where nonprofits can help their own communities thrive through increased capacity and enhanced impact. 

Essential to the initiative’s success on the coast has been the support of the founding institutions. St. Marys United Methodist Church Foundation, led by President Jeff Barker, works to help nonprofits in the region become stronger and more effective. “Since GCN launched Momentum, I have seen undeniable transformations in these organizations,” says Barker. “From the quality of their proposals to their ability to deliver their missions, organizations have professionalized, increased their efficiency, and are ultimately increasing their impact in the community. GCN has brought these organizations together in a way that hasn’t happened here before.”