Q&A With the Nonprofit Support Network on What It’s Like Working on the Frontlines of a Nonprofit

Attendees participating in Nonprofit Support Network’s Annual Sustainability Workshop.Attendees participating in Nonprofit Support Network’s Annual Sustainability Workshop. Photo provided

By Jud Fisher—

MUNCIE, IN Established in 2022, the Nonprofit Support Network (NSN) is a capacity-building organization dedicated to supporting nonprofits in Muncie-Delaware County. The organization provides workshops, peer networking opportunities, an on-line portal of resources, tailored support for nonprofits, and more.

Originally developed by The Community Foundation of Muncie and Delaware County in consultation with five other local organizations, NSN’s programs and services are designed to provide practical resources for nonprofit Executive Directors/CEOs, staff, board members, and volunteers from nonprofits that serve Muncie and Delaware County.

When BBF was approached with a request for seed funding to help support the NSN’s early operations, the foundation’s board embraced the opportunity. BBF takes seriously our role to help build the operational and leadership capacity of nonprofits. Further, the foundation recognizes that nonprofits in our community are tackling some of society’s most complex challenges, often on exceptionally tight budgets and with lean staffing. Building a stronger network of support for nonprofits is vital to helping organizations adapt and meet ever-changing needs.

What follows below is a question and answer session between the foundation and Carly Acree King, NSN’s Relationship and Resource Director, who shares more about the organization’s work.

Q. You spend a lot of time meeting with nonprofits. What are some of the common challenges nonprofits in our community are facing?

Our community is so fortunate to have a strong collection of nonprofit organizations. These organizations take their role seriously in building and supporting a healthy and resilient quality of place and life for residents. Our nonprofits’ most common challenges are fundraising and financial constraints. They navigate an increased demand for their services, difficulty hiring and retaining staff, and adapting to changing needs and expectations. Despite these challenges, our nonprofits continue to preserve and find innovative ways to overcome obstacles and thrive in their missions.

Our priority at Nonprofit Support Network is to identify common themes among the sector and work with nonprofits, community leaders, and funders to address them. By understanding the challenges nonprofits face, we can provide targeted support and resources to help them thrive.

Q. Having worked for and volunteered for a number of different nonprofits yourself, what is it really like to be on the frontlines of a nonprofit? What are the highs? What are the lows?   

One of the most fulfilling aspects of working in the nonprofit sector is knowing that your work makes a difference in the lives of others and your community. The impact is not always immediate, and you may not always witness it in your current role, but it does come. It’s rewarding to know that your work is leaving a ripple for future generations.

Working in the nonprofit sector has been a transformative experience for me, particularly in personal growth and development. I’ve found that nonprofit work offers a unique environment where I’ve been able to learn and expand my skills continuously. From fundraising and marketing to project management and advocacy, I’ve had the opportunity to dive into various challenges and situations that have pushed me to grow in ways I never imagined. Each day is never the same.

On the other side, the reality of working on the front lines of a nonprofit is that it is HARD WORK. You’re often faced with challenging stereotypes or expectations about how you work, the condition of the workplace, or the quality of pay. Despite these challenges, I believe that society is changing attitudes, and there is a growing recognition of the vital role nonprofits play in society. There’s a growing emphasis on improving working conditions within the sector, increasing flexibility and trust from funders, prioritizing fair pay, and providing opportunities for staff and volunteers to develop professionally (cue – Nonprofit Support Network!).

Q. NSN was designed to provide practical tools and resources to a very wide range of nonprofits throughout the community.

Since launching Nonprofit Support Network two years ago, we’ve prioritized providing accessible entry points for organizations to engage with our work. Through our bi-weekly newsletter, monthly blogs, peer groups, workshops, social events, social media, and website, we aim to offer various ways for organizations and individuals to connect with our resources comfortably.

I always enjoy discussing our work and am available to meet in person or virtually. The best way to get in touch with me is by email at carly@muncienonprofits.org.

Q. What are a few of the most popular programs or services offered by NSN?  

Our peer groups, dubbed Network Huddles, and social events have been some of the most popular program offerings. The response to these underscores the desire for individuals in the nonprofit sector to connect and share experiences, challenges, and ideas in a supportive environment. We’ve witnessed how these gatherings cultivate collaboration and encourage connection and celebration rather than competition or rivalry.

We’ve been really focused on building trust with Nonprofit Support Network and the nonprofit sector. Breaking down barriers and fostering a culture of mutual support is crucial for the growth and sustainability of our community and for the long-term change we want to see for nonprofits. By creating an atmosphere where we can all collaborate and trust each other, we’re not just helping individual organizations, but we’re making a more significant impact together.

Q. Last year, NSN launched an “HR Help Desk.” Tell us more about that service.

The HR Resource and Help Desk has been a rewarding project to work on over the past year. Not only did we custom-build it, but its purpose is relevant and responsive by providing a resource to help nonprofits manage or solve employee and organizational challenges. Many organizations struggle with understanding what HR is and how it can impact their ability to meet their mission—while others don’t have the capacity to prioritize it. Recognizing this gap, Nonprofit Support Network developed the HR Resource and Help Desk to empower nonprofits through customized guidance for non-emergent questions about recruiting and hiring, people management, and policies and procedures. This service is free to nonprofits in Muncie-Delaware County, and the process protects the confidentiality of nonprofit requests.

A Resiliency Grant from The Community Foundation and a partnership with ECIHRA and Open Door Health Services supported this service’s development and launch. We’re working on growing and expanding with the additional support of a new partnership with Purple Ink. Our website has a cool blog that helps explain the service and how to use it.

Q. Over the past two years, what have been some of the “biggest wins” for NSN?

The biggest win for Nonprofit Support Network was hosting the Nonprofit Summit in October 2023, featuring a keynote by Suzanne Smith from Social Impact Architects. The event drew a crowd of 100 attendees representing over 40 organizations from the region, making it a dynamic and impactful gathering for everyone involved.

Another notable win from the past two years was the actual launch of NSN. It’s been an exciting adventure to take all of the work and conceptualizing from the planning processes and watch the organization come to life. The nonprofits we serve have been very welcoming and engaging, and we’ve received some recognition from other communities across the state.

Q. As you look to the future, what are you most excited about as you build out programming for NSN?

I’m really excited to see how the HR Resource and Help Desk continues evolving and growing. The community has strong potential and interest in pooling resources to foster collaboration through shared services. It’s been a strong topic of discussion throughout much of this work, and as NSN continues to build trust and advocate for the nonprofit sector, it’s possible.

Additionally, I’m excited about building intentional and strategic collaborations with other nonprofits and businesses that strongly support nonprofits in our community. We’ve already been working with Shafer Leadership Academy, Muncie Public Library, East Central Indiana HR Association, Muncie Downtown Development Partnership, Second Harvest Food Bank, LEAP IT, and Intersection, to name a few. It’s been a focus to provide truly valuable support to organizations by prioritizing relationship building and partnerships in the delivery of our mission.

Q. As a lifelong resident of East Central Indiana, what do you love about living here?

I’ve grown up on the southeast side of Muncie and feel deeply connected to the city, especially witnessing the various identities the city has carried throughout the decades. I love being a part of a resilient community that shows up for each other, even with different beliefs. It’s a special feeling to call Muncie home and witness the strength of the community – and nonprofits – firsthand.

Q: Finally, what advice might you have for people who are interested in volunteering for a nonprofit or who are interested in serving on the board of a nonprofit?

Volunteers are a pressing need for our community’s nonprofits. My advice for those interested in volunteering or serving on the board of a nonprofit is to find an organization that does work you’re passionate about and connect with them in as many ways as possible. That might include following their social media channels, subscribing to newsletters or mailings, or attending their programs, events, or meetings. This is an easy way to get to know the organization while observing how it operates and engages volunteers. When ready, commit to volunteering or connect with a staff or board member to learn more about the organization. When you and the organization are ready, volunteering for committees, programs, or events can be a key gateway to board service. Nonprofit Support Network’s Nonprofit Volunteer Guide details nonprofits that need volunteers for programs, board service, and more.

About Ball Brothers Foundation:

Ball Brothers Foundation is one of the state’s oldest and largest family foundations. In 2023, the foundation paid out $8.8 million in grants to support place-based initiatives related to arts and culture, education, the environment, health, human services, and public affairs. The Muncie-based private foundation gives priority to projects and programs that improve the quality of life in the foundation’s home city, county, and state.