Nonprofit Network Aims for
Strength in Numbers

(Monday, September 25, 2006 6:28 AM EDT)
Running a successful nonprofit organization is no easy task. In Arlington, many human service providers have taken a cooperative approach.

The Arlington Nonprofit Network (ANN) is an association that brings area human service organzations together in a forum where they can share information and resources, find solutions to common problems, advocate for government and private support and work together to educate the public about the services they offer.

The government provides some aid for those in need, but “we can provide it more directly and effectively,” said Ed Rea, co-chairman of the organization and executive director of the Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless.

“We also have a level of independence,” Rea said. “We can take a stand on issues in the community that the government can't.”

A handful of nonprofit providers created ANN about two years ago, and 19 organizations are part of the network currently. The executive directors of these organizations meet on a monthly basis.

“The fact that the majority of the 19 nonprofits show up to the meetings is indicative of the importance of the network,” Rea said. “The group does have meaning, and people are willing to take the time to participate.”

The Arlington Nonprofit Network is especially useful to nonprofits who do not receive funding from the county government.

ANN doesn't receive funding either, but non-funded organizations gain a lot from interacting with organizations who do receive money from the county.

“We at Offender Aid and Restoration [OAR] are highly dependent upon most of the members of ANN,” said Gail Arnall, who is executive director of OAR and co-chairs the Arlington Nonprofit Network. “Our clients come to us and we help them find the social services they need in the community, most of whom are members of the network.”

Shared information within the network is also beneficial financially.

“By combining together and sharing information, we're not spending money duplicating research and services,” Arnall said.

The network helps nonprofits with publicity as well.

“We are not county agencies,” said Christine Lucas, executive director of the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). “We rely on community funding, and ANN helps us get the word out.”

In addition to leveraging each other, the organizations in the network seek to work with the county government on issues such as provisional health services, food and literacy. Sub-groups comprised of nonprofit and county government staff members have been formed to find overlaps and gaps in their programs to improve overall efficiency to reach those in need.

The county government is sensitive to the needs of nonprofits that come to them individually, but their response is better when a cooperative and cohesive group approaches them, Rea said.

“ANN is a mechanism to focus us and help us be more vocal,” he said.

For information, see the Web site at

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