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Heart for ENC helping nonprofits fan God's flame

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Sid Bradsher, executive director of Heart for ENC, at a workshop with non-profit organizations at Third Street Educational Center. “Our goal is to see our community transformed by raising the capacity of those that are already at work in our community," Bradsher said.


By Kim Grizzard
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, February 17, 2019

There are times when the closest view does not offer the best vantage point.

A case in point is when a group of local business leaders traveled to Selma, Ala., to see how a program developed there could serve as a model for Greenville.

“We came back thinking we need to bring this back to Greenville,” said real estate developer Jule White, one of half a dozen people who were a part of that 2015 tour. “But we were quickly humbled by a lot of organizations that said, 'These things already exist in Greenville.'”

More than three years later, what came after that 700-mile trip was a change of heart on how to meet needs in eastern North Carolina. Rather than establishing a new organization to address issues such as poverty, crime and the breakdown of the family, the group has opted for a wider approach.

The result is Heart for ENC, which has made its mission to help other nonprofit organizations to achieve theirs.

“For us, it's not creating things,” Executive Director Sid Bradsher said. “The difference is we're just coming alongside things that are already existing.

“Basically, our mission is to equip and empower nonprofits, freeing them to do what God has called them to do,” he said. “We're trying to come alongside nonprofit organizations in the community and help them really live into their full potential”

Launched as Heart for Greenville in 2016, the organization began by working behind the scenes with half a dozen local nonprofits, offering free services ranging from leadership development training to networking opportunities and grant-writing assistance. The support is designed to enable nonprofit leaders to be able to look beyond daily responsibilities and envision a long-term plan for their organizations.

“We began to ask the question of all of these nonprofit leaders: 'What is your greatest need?'” White said. “Honestly, I really expected every one of them to say in some form or fashion, 'We need money.' But that wasn't the answer.”

Almost across the board, what nonprofit directors described as their greatest need was a “bench.” They needed someone who could be called on to fill in as part of the team, to share the burden.

Burnout is common among nonprofit leaders who feel they have nowhere to turn for support, White said, adding that he could easily point to a half dozen local organizations that have lost their directors for this reason.

“I can't help but wonder had they had all the tools that they needed would they not still be serving in that capacity,” he said. They're always overworked. They're always under appreciated.

“All too often these nonprofit leaders feel isolated,” White said. “They're alone over there.”

Bradsher understands the feeling. Prior to joining Heart for ENC, he spent more than 20 years in nonprofit ministry as executive director of Pitt County Young Life.

“I can understand or commiserate about some of the frustrations of trying to lead a nonprofit organization, funding, volunteers, board members, all those things that are challenges,” he said.

But unlike many local nonprofit leaders, Bradsher had the advantage of being part of a larger organization that offered infrastructure and resources such as mentors and corporate training, along with access to an accounting department to help him answer financial questions.

“I know what's it's like to have resources,” Bradsher said. “If we can bring those kind of resources to some of those smaller organizations, I think it could really make a huge difference.”

In a little more than two years, Heart for ENC, which adopted its new name last year to reflect its work with more than 40 nonprofits in several counties throughout the region, is seeing the fruit of its labor. Employing a part-time grant writer, the organization has helped nonprofits secure nearly $700,000 in grant funding.

To effectively assist nonprofits, Heart for ENC has aligned itself with Raleigh's Mission Triangle, a 25-year-old organization that has provided coaching and other support to more than 650 nonprofits in the Triangle area. Both organizations emphasize “capacity building,” which values teaching people to work more competently or to a greater capacity.

The concept is a familiar one in the business world. Capacity building, or capacity development, aims to make businesses and organizations more effective and sustainable.

“You look at any major corporation, they're always training, they're always getting better, they're always growing,” White said. “They're always striving to improve in areas of weakness.

“Whether people want to admit it or not, every nonprofit out there has a business aspect to it,” he said “They 're dealing with money challenges. They're dealing with leadership needs. Somebody may have a God-given dream to serve underprivileged children, but maybe God didn't gift them with how do you write a grant or how do you balance a checkbook. … The big picture of it all is that God calls us all to be different parts of the body.”

Fellow Heart for ENC board member Sidney Locks, who has interacted with many nonprofit organizations while serving as a pastor, agrees.

“A lot of nonprofits come into existence, and the greatest thing they have is passion,” he said. “Over the years, I've noticed many of them launch and fail because they did not have much more than passion.

“They don't learn skills and abilities to do what needs be done to be successful,” Locks said.

Kimber Stone, executive director of Riley's Army, has attended several Heart for ENC educational sessions to help strengthen the nonprofit organization, which provides support to children with cancer and to their families.

“I've been with Riley's Army seven years, but I didn't know all these things,” she said following a workshop on developing a board policy manual. “As a professional, I've never thought of some of these things.

“I didn't go to school to be an executive director of a nonprofit organization,” Stone said. “Now I'm learning all these different steps to make your organization better.”

Lauren Anzelone is in the initial stages of working to launch her own nonprofit organization, which aims to provide affordable transitional housing for youth aging out of foster care. She learned about Heart for ENC three months ago and attends most any seminar or workshop offered.

“It's God's perfect timing for me,” Anzelone said. “I was kind of just getting frustrated before. I didn't know where to look (for information).

“It's taking a load of information and funneling it down to where it's very practical for me.”

In addition, she said attending Heart for ENC seminars has helped her meet directors of other area nonprofit organizations whose efforts might intersect with hers.

Nathan White, executive director of Third Street Education Center, said Heart for ENC has fostered a connection among nonprofits.

“One of the problems we face here in Greenville is that a lot of the ministries are disconnected and don't really know what's going on in the other,” he said. “It's kind of like puzzle pieces spread out across the table. They're not touching one another. Heart for ENC seems to be an organization that can bring those together so that we can better connect. We can bring our whole picture together to see what God is doing here.”

Business concepts that Heart for ENC teaches are based on biblical principles, although nonprofit organizations are not required to be faith-based to take advantage of the services, which have included intern support and help in obtaining financial audits. Heart for ENC is exploring the idea of a nonprofit “incubator” model that would provide office space for small nonprofit organizations to share some equipment and services.

“If we can bring resources to the needs in our community, that's what we want to do,” Bradsher said.

“It's not about starting something new. It's about seeing what God's already doing and helping fan that flame.

“There are a lot of great things happening in this community already,” he said. “If we can empower those people to do more effectively what they're doing, if we can encourage them to partner with each other, and then if we can bring the business world and the rest of the community to bear on those things, then how much better is that than us starting some nonprofit?”

For more information, visit heartforenc.org.

Contact Kim Grizzard at kgrizzard@reflector.com and 329-9578.