By Cynthia Segura
Nonprofits expand their locations and programs to impact more lives
Nonprofits may be faced with the challenges of expanding their location or programs. Although this may come with many obstacles, expansion increases the effectiveness and the scope of the nonprofit.
According to an article in the Foundation Group by Greg McRay, there are two scenarios when considering expansion: location expansion, and additions to program services. Location expansion entails launching an additional site for the nonprofit. Program expansion involves expanding the nonprofit’s areas of operations.
One nonprofit that is in the process of location expansion is MakerGirl. MakerGirl inspires the next generation of working girls to be leaders in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The nonprofit achieves this mission by hosting 3D printing sessions for girls ages seven to ten. Through sessions hosted by MakerGirl, girls are encouraged to be creative with technology and learn about women leaders in STEM.
“Being a woman in a STEM major, I have seen these inequalities in classes and in a lot of the work I do,” said Mary Hadley, MakerGirl’s incoming Campus President. “I really want to inspire young girls and women to know they can do anything and that STEM is for them even if the representation is not there right now, but we can change that.”
To extend their operations to other regions around the world, MakerGirl sought the assistance of Students Consulting for Nonprofit Organizations (SCNO).
SCNO’s goal was to help MakerGirl with location expansion. The organization looked at factors such as population density and the number of girls ages seven to ten in the area. These deciding factors represented the market that MakerGirl was catering to.
In fall 2016, SCNO suggested that Madison, Wisconsin and Chicago, Illinois are both reasonable markets for expansion and should be prioritized. MakerGirl is in the process of implementing SCNO’s recommendations for location expansion.
Along with the location suggestions, SCNO recommended several strategies to expand their market and maintain corporate sponsorships. Some of these suggestions include field trips to reach a different audience and presenting specific achievements, regular updates and logo advertisements when seeking corporate sponsorship packages.
Eric Onsager, an SCNO consultant on the project, said field trips are a great opportunity to expand MakerGirl’s market. Field trips help reach a different geographical audience. The idea is that MakerGirl would reach out to a school in Danville, Illinois and the third graders would come to a workshop session.
“Right now, if they only operate out of the Business Instructional Facility (BIF), then they can only reach people who are willing to drive to the BIF for their workshops,” Onsager said. “But by doing field trips, there is more of an event and a school is more willing to drive 45 minutes for something unique than a mother might be”
In March 2018, MakerGirl announced the opening of a new chapter. This location expansion entails academies at Northwestern University, DePaul University and University of Illinois at Chicago. Sessions at the new academies start next month.
However, there are many obstacles encountered when expanding the location of a nonprofit. For example, when opening new academies, MakerGirl must make sure there are laptops, printers and spaces to work in.
One method that can be utilized to overcome issues with resource allocation or funding is the corporate sponsorships. This is a necessary tool for nonprofits, especially during the expansion process. According to the National Council of Nonprofits, corporate sponsorships are a payment by a business to expand or advocate for the nonprofit’s mission.
One of MakerGirl’s substantial corporate sponsorship is with Ultimaker, a 3D printer manufacturing company. Two years ago, Ultimaker donated 15 3D printers to MakerGirl, which has allowed them to expand programs such as MakerGirl goes Mobile.
Another nonprofit undergoing the expansion process is Altus Academy, which was founded by John Heybach. Altus is a private independent college preparatory middle school located in Chicago, Illinois. The academy works to develop students’ strength of character and academic excellence. Altus also aims to serve underrepresented groups such as minorities, low-income households and first generation college graduate households.
“We strive to help these kids who have all these barriers to being successful by creating a school that helps them overcome these barriers,” Heybach said.
Altus provides an academic background customized to the students’ individual needs. For example, if a students need to be assessed for a neuropsychological evaluation or create an individual education plan, Altus provides these resources.
Altus has goals to expand, however, they also wish to provide individualized attention and services to their students. Altus is always brainstorming ways to challenge students to achieve their maximum potential by innovating and developing partnerships to help their students.
For example, Altus has recently started a family therapy program and there are currently four families enrolled. With pro bono family therapy services, Altus can provide services to families of students having difficulties with violence, substance abuse or divorce.
Expanding a nonprofit organization is an exciting challenge which requires support and commitment in leadership, members and volunteers. However, there are many challenges that come with the expansion process such as resource allocation, funding or finding space to work in. For this reason, seeking and maintaining relationships with different companies which can provide corporate sponsorships is a method that may be utilized to expand a nonprofit’s mission.
“A nonprofit may only grow as fast as its resources allow it,” Heybach said.