Outreach important to local community

Ruston, LA (Ruston Daily Leader) – Anyone living in this area either recognizes, or will come to learn, that outreach is vital to our community life. Most recently, there has been new and renewed energy in our area evidenced by the expanding outreach of our policy makers, businesses, civic organizations, churches, and nonprofits. This growing movement is making an irrevocable impact on the life, creativity, and health of our community. At the heart of this outreach are those organizations serving individuals. From food banks to thrift stores, community gardens to summer art camps, these organizations work tirelessly to improve the quality of life of the people they serve and to make a place where creative new life can happen. These groups passionately respond to a call-to-action in the community, all the while working to find funding, volunteers, and resources to bring their missions to fruition.

With the funding and business structure challenges of these groups in mind, the concept of building an organizational support system around the responders began to emerge. Jane Watts, Executive Director of The Ross Lynn Charitable Foundation (RLCF), and I began to vision and meet with local groups to better understand the challenges they face in their organizations’ life cycle. Our findings, which affirmed the need for such a support system, made way for the forming of The Exchange to help those serving do what they do even better.

The Exchange, a program of the RLCF, launched in late January of this year. It is a membership-based coalition of knowledge, resources, and shared outreach. It exists to enhance the current work of nonprofit organizations, nurture future leaders, and cultivate new and emerging programs. The Exchange serves to mobilize communal impact by connecting funders, policy makers, and responders and by offering resources, education, and support to its members.

Local organizations who become members can expect a whole host of benefits. Members are invited each month to gather, where like-minded responders are able to share their needs and resources in an effort to build relationships with others doing similar work. The Exchange operates with the mindset that collaboration is the key to successful and fruitful outreach; we believe in the importance of bringing our members together on a regular basis to nurture collaborative work. Our member organizations also have access to information concerning social media, marketing, business structure, and funding sources, with grant writing workshops slated for the future.

With just under four months since our launch, our program has grown to include over 20 area organizations serving Lincoln, Jackson, Union, and Claiborne Parishes. We’ve been able to identify $180,000 in grant opportunities for four of our members. We are beginning to discern and plan a collaborative grant that will focus on making place for a healthy, creative community life.

For more information about The Exchange, visit our website at exchangenla.org. Contact us with questions at theexchange.nla@gmail.com or Call/Text us at 318.245.8708

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Article written by Dylan Sanders, program director of The Exchange.