Online resource center launches to support Missoula’s 250 nonprofit groups

“It’s certainly been a need and a desire of mine to connect with other people working in our sector who are in my position because they understand what I do every day,” said Heather Sundheim, executive director of Living Art of Montana.

United Way of Missoula County has launched a new online, membership-based center that serves as a hub for area nonprofits to connect to resources and collaborate with one another.

The Missoula Nonprofit Center is a merger of the Montana Nonprofit Network and Volunteer Missoula, both organizations that help nonprofits connect with one another and with volunteers.

“There are many other offerings that have come to Missoula, which is such a nonprofit-rich environment,” Susan Hay Patrick, chief executive officer of United Way of Missoula County. “Attendance was declining at those in-person training opportunities and we really decided that we should move to the web and meet people where they are. We’ll survey our members and see what they’re looking to do.”

The center will connect Missoula, Mineral and Ravalli county nonprofit organizations that register and pay an annual $50 fee. Members will be able to submit organization events to the public calendar; attend workshops on volunteer management, board governance, fundraising and more; and post job openings and volunteer opportunities.

Missoula County has about 250 nonprofits that employ over 4,000 people. Those jobs pay about 5 percent of all wages in the county, Hay Patrick said. Other cities have implemented a similar program, but this is the first of its kind in Montana.

The center has a budget of about $24,000 to pay for a coordinator, speakers and events, which will be funded through dues, fundraising and advertising on the website. About $10,000 of that comes from the city of Missoula, earmarked for Volunteer Missoula, which has received funds from the city since its inception.

The website was created by students in a management and information systems class at the University of Montana.

“While we’re mighty little engines that can and do, we are also fragile,” Hay Patrick said. “We are under-resourced and we’re charged, ever year, with doing more and more. I think it just amplifies the support that United Way tries to provide to the nonprofit community but goes beyond United Way’s circle of health and human service programs.”

Living Art of Montana is a nonprofit that provides creative workshops like ceramics, painting and writing for those who have chronic illnesses, cancer or who have lost their caretakers.

Heather Sundheim, executive director of Living Art of Montana, said the Missoula Nonprofit Center will help her connect with people and organizations that share the same values and goals.

“It’s certainly been a need and a desire of mine to connect with other people working in our sector who are in my position because they understand what I do every day. There’s a perception that we are in competition and that there’s a limited number of dollars, but by working together there are lots of resources to share. We’re not in it alone,” Sundheim said.

“We’re all sort of learning how to work smarter, not harder, and to pair up with one another and support each other and our efforts to serve our individual populations.”

That support can come in the form of education through trainings, contacts with local consultants or other organizations to pool resources, and help with fundraising.

Sundheim thinks that, as the Missoula Nonprofit Center grows, more benefits will be available, and she’s excited to see where it takes Living Art of Montana.

“I think it’s important to be a presence that the community recognizes as a valuable resource,” she said. “With these other organizations, they might be doing great work, but I might not know about them yet, and so it connects all of us in a deeper way.”

Reporter Mari Hall can be contacted via email at mari.hall@missoulacurrent.com.