It’s a dog-eat-dog world in the non-profit community these days and the “big dogs” are well fed.
“Big dogs” is how Linda Winsor, the executive director of the University Avenue Betterment Association, characterizes non-profit groups who are getting funding in the Central Corridor project while her organization goes without.
So she’s quitting. “I’m good at the day-to-day issues, but the fundraising turf wars are unbearable,” she says. She says her organization needs a fundraiser in her position.
University Avenue is about to get torn up for light-rail. “Light rail is a looming crisis and while the big boys play an important role, if you don’t have the impacted people who can show where the resources need to go, the resources don’t get down to them,” she says
“Them” are business owners on University Avenue.
“Today I got a call from a new business owner, — a restaurant owner — and he’s going to lose his on-street parking and he’s wondering ‘what am I going to do? Where are my customers going to park?’ We e-mailed the person who needs to talk to him and we’ll figure out what resources we can get for him.”
Winsor says groups like hers have the advantage of knowing University Avenue businesses, which makes her group more “nimble.” She says larger groups get money that doesn’t make it to the people it’s supposed to help, likening it to the situation that exists in worldwide disasters.
“There’s a big problem when the money floods into the Red Cross. The groups that are on the ground, the people who know people and know how to do things on a shoestring budget, if the big boys don’t coordinate with them, you’re missing a big piece,” she says.
“I see that here, too. I see where the funders go with who they’ve heard of, who they know and if the funders aren’t ready to fund the more nimble groups and the more impacted folks, the people who are trying to maintain the capacity are not going to throw the bones down. The key word is collaboration, but in the end, everyone is competing for the same pot of money. There isn’t a collalorative atmosphere. It’s a very huge underground turf war and if you’re not in the club, you don’t get it.”
Not everyone is shut out, however. The University Avenue Business Preparation Collaborative received funding from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, the St. Paul Foundation and the Bigelow Foundation.