By Hayley Crandall
IFF and JPMorgan Chase held a virtual event Wednesday, Jan. 27 to commemorate the Milwaukee launch of their Stronger Nonprofit Initiative (SNI) and to highlight the importance of investing in nonprofit organizations led by people of color.
SNI, fueled by a partnership between IFF and JPMorgan Chase, is a free 14-month program aimed at reducing structural barriers by assisting POC-led nonprofits. It explores various topics including financial management, networking and real estate preparation. The program was established in Milwaukee in October of 2020 and is currently assisting nine local nonprofit organizations.
“We know that there are barriers,” Darian Luckett, IFF director of lending, said. “We know throughout the years that there’s been an equitable issue surrounding resources. So, this program not only gives them the access that they need as well as [sic] the access to funders.”
After a challenging 2020, the establishment of this program is a vital one for organizations, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes explained.
“Organizations like the ones in this cohort are going to stand up against the legacies of inequity and that’s exciting,” Barnes said.
The virtual event highlighted two Milwaukee nonprofit executive directors currently in the SNI program: Joe’Mar Hooper from Safe & Sound and Keith Stanley from Near West Side Partners.
While both participating in the same program, they joined with different goals. Hooper utilizes SNI to acquire and share skills to build strong team leaders. Stanley has had a strong focus on sharpening financial and budget skills.
They discussed their experiences so far with SNI and how resources offered can benefit other community organization leaders, and how the SNI program can aid nonprofits with capacity building.
“I think it’s really building the capacity of these organizations to be able to professionalize, to be able to operate on themselves on a consistent basis,” Hooper said. “That capacity building piece is tremendous to me.”
Stanley said he believes this program can help issues that may arise regarding language barriers, specifically when it comes to leaders discussing finances with lenders.
“I think this would be impactful for Milwaukee because as we work with these nonprofit leaders of color, they are then able to really in turn talk to the funding organizations,” he said. “Whether it’s foundations, bank institutions, there are so many organizations that really want to support but we want to make sure we’re speaking the same language.”
Hooper also finds this program has the opportunity to offer business-centric experiences, such as setting up building purchase offers or handling letters of credit, both of which can be key factors in their nonprofit journey.
“If you live in a city like Milwaukee, which is extremely segregated, non-diverse in many parts of our city, and siloed, how do you get those skills as a leader if you haven’t been exposed to the people who can put you in the right rooms or give you right the conversations?” Hooper said.
Another important aspect of this program’s launch comes from the necessity to build leaders of colors’ confidence when they are presenting their organization, Stanley explained.
“There is definitely a value as a person of color to make sure you have the understanding and the confidence to present the numbers and show the financial status of your organization,” he said. “I think, in all honesty, sometimes with people of color, the dual personality that we’ve heard before, if you put something out there, are people not respecting the numbers because of the color of your skin.”
Overall, both expressed gratitude for the program’s launch in Milwaukee as it continues to lend assistance and show support in troubling times.
“We appreciate all the support and I never want to look over that,” Stanley said. “Brothers and sisters are dying, COVID-19 has made a major impact on us, crime is up, and to have people who care is important.”
Milwaukee is the third Midwestern city SNI has been established in, following Chicago and Detroit. St. Louis is its next target area. More information, including eligibility, can be found on IFF’s website, https://iff.org/programs/strongernonprofits/.