Three N.C. nonprofits get awards for stewardship

Posted October 16, 2008 8:57 p.m. EDT

— A statewide group recognized three nonprofits for the stewardship of resources at an awards ceremony in Raleigh Thursday.

The North Carolina Center for Nonprofits awarded the 2008 Nonprofit Sector Stewardship Awards to Raleigh-based Action for Children North Carolina; Lenoir-based Helping Hands Clinic and the Children's Theatre of Charlotte.

The Center, which represents a 1,600 nonprofits statewide, created the awards to recognize groups that demonstrate high standards of accountability, ethics and stewardship expected of tax-exempt organizations.

Transforming itself from a Raleigh-focused group, AfC created a coalition of government and private groups and doctors to advocate for affordable health insurance for all children. In three years, it has increased its number of corporate supporters from five to more than 80.

“Adopting best practices for nonprofits has been a key to our success,” Barb Bradley, AfC's CEO and president, said. “We refined how our Board of Directors governs AfC, starting from scratch with strategic planning. We took a hard look at how we do everything, from fundraising and marketing to the management of our financial and human resources.”

The group influenced a new state law that funded health coverage for 38,000 uninsured, low- and middle-income children. The nonprofit also successfully pushed for the recurring funds for local Juvenile Crime Prevention Council in 2008 and for a tax credit for 825,000 families in 2007.

“They are responsible advocates, and their work exemplifies the approach that any advocacy organization should take,” said Liz Ryan of the Campaign for Youth Justice, which makes grants to AfC. “You don’t develop your position in a vacuum. You listen and develop coordinated strategy. They really listen to what people on the ground are saying.”

In 10 years of operation, Helping Hands Clinic has delivered $14 million in free health care, never turned a patient away and encouraged patients to take ownership of the facility. Eighty-five percent of patients donate at least $5 a visit, covering 10 percent of the group's budget.

A partnership with Caldwell Memorial Hospital and other medical groups has allowed to the clinic to ensure that patients with chronic diseases get to see the same doctor, improving patient outcomes.

“Doctors would not be willing to offer their services if they didn’t feel it was a good use of their time," said Laura Easton, CEO of Caldwell hospital. "But because HHC does such high-quality work, they continue to be involved with the clinic."

The clinic has been credited with providing essential help when Caldwell County furniture plants started closing in 2003, making many workers uninsured.

“HHC has strong relationships in the community, and its relationship with the hospital is beyond reproach,” said William Howard, vice president of Bernhardt Furniture Company and a Caldwell Memorial Hospital board member. "The hospital realizes the crucial role that HHC serves."

The Children's Theatre of Charlotte partnered with the city and county public libraries to open ImaginOn in downtown. The facility houses a youth library, theater and educational center. It was also the first environmentally friendly, public building in Charlotte.

"We are honoring Children’s Theatre of Charlotte for careful stewardship of all its financial, human, and natural resources in retooling its 60-year-old nonprofit to reach out to new audiences," Jane Kendall, president of N.C. Center for Nonprofits, said.

To achieve that enterprise, CTC transformed itself internally, restructuring its board of directors while maintaining a loyal volunteer corps, ENCORE!, and engaging staff members.

“I’ve never worked with a nonprofit that has made such good use of my time as a board member," Stephen Sorenson, chair-elect of CTC's board, said.

The winning organizations receive $500 for professional development of their board and staff and a commemorative artwork by Durham artist Galia Goodman, as well as statewide recognition.

Prudential Financial, Inc., sponsored the 2008 awards.