February 14, 2005
By MELISSA PIONZIO, Courant Staff Writer
With a common goal
of developing a business venture to generate income, eight
local nonprofit organizations are participating in a pilot
project funded by the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.
Working in partnership with the consulting firm Community
Wealth Ventures, the foundation has developed the Hartford
Community Wealth Collaborative to teach nonprofit agencies
how to develop a business idea into a money-making enterprise.
"It's a pretty exciting project," said Christopher
Hall, vice president for programs and special projects at the
foundation. "In addition to [providing] supportive grants
and services, one of our principal roles is strengthening the
More than 30 Connecticut-based nonprofit agencies applied
to participate in the project after attending an information
session. The 12 selected were required to make a presentation
on their business proposal to a group of business owners and
venture capitalists. There were not many restrictions on the
types of ventures the nonprofits could pursue, said Hall, only
that the idea be well researched or already underway and that
it be related to the organization's mission.
"No branching out into something completely different
that would take them away from their core mission," said
Hall. "We didn't want, say, an arts group opening a gas
The eight finalists - the Bushnell Center for the Performing
Arts, Connecticut Housing Investment Fund, Co-Opportunity Inc.,
the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Jewish Family Services, Manchester
Area Conference of Churches, Riverfront Recapture Inc. and
the Urban League of Greater Hartford - were chosen after a
screening process that included site visits and interviews.
Once selected, the organizations were required to make a financial
commitment of $5,000.
"The service we are getting is far more valuable than
$5,000," said Donna Taglianetti, executive director of
Co-Opportunity, which plans to develop a home improvement business
that would not only create more housing in Hartford, but also
provide employment opportunities. "I think all of us wanted
to get into this making money for our organization, but we
are not going into this starry-eyed. Building a business takes
Other ventures include an arts and education program for older
adults by The Bushnell, a homemaker referral program by Jewish
Family Services, retail sales and product development by the
Stowe Center, expansion of an existing thrift shop by Manchester
Area Conference of Churches, a web-based employment service
by the Urban League, a marketing package for existing outdoor
programs by Riverfront Recapture and a loan servicing business
by Connecticut Housing Investment Fund.
Officials from the nonprofit agencies take part in 10 months
of training. They meet monthly as a group to talk with peer
nonprofit leaders and experts in business development and receive
individual consultant sessions on such topics as planning and
starting a business and financial and marketing strategies.
Business executives from Hartford-area corporations also serve
"The support they have given us has already been phenomenal," said
Richard Brown, vice president of human resources at the Urban
League, which plans to start a web-based diversity employment
service. "Traditionally, thinking as an entrepreneur is
not what a nonprofit considers itself. The focus is on grants
and fund-raising and although Hartford is a wonderful community,
it is a small one and we do tend to tap the same sources for
money over and over."
Anne Danaher, executive director for Jewish Family Services,
said the West Hartford-based organization plans to expand its
current homemaker referral program by making changes to its
internal operations and increasing its visibility through marketing
"It's just a wonderful opportunity for us. The timing
is right. We are really ready," said Danaher. "For
nonprofits to sustain themselves and to build and plan for
the future we need to create better plans to sustain ourselves.
This will help us to do this."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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