“When’s the last time you saw 10 community projects launched in one night?” asks Donnie Maclurcan, affiliate professor of social science at Southern Oregon University and director of Cascades Hub. He is referring to the upcoming "Presentation Night," when participants from his “Not-for-Profit Way” training course will pitch their projects to the community for support and suggestions.
“The projects cover so many different fields. Everybody came into the course with a lot of different skills, ideas, and backgrounds,” says Dee Perez, who will launch Thrive Education, a tutoring service for low-income students.
Thrive Education will offer professional tutoring for junior high through high school students and adults returning to higher education after a long absence to ensure they have the skills, attitudes and abilities that they need to succeed.
The 25 years Perez spent working in higher education allowed her to see which strategies helped at-risk students overcome their struggles. Perez draws upon her prior experience in developing higher education retention programs to ensure that Thrive Education offers tutoring services that are efficient and personalized.
“I think that everyone, regardless of where they’re starting from, deserves a shot at a great education, and that’s the service that we want to provide,” says Perez, “I’m setting this up as a nonprofit because people who are struggling financially don’t have the extra resources or the time to go out and find them.”
In order to offer quality services on a sliding fee scale, Perez is looking for donations, scholarships and grants to offset costs for low-income clients and to hire professional tutors that are willing to teach a variety of subject matters in one-on-one settings.
By next fall, Perez hopes to begin offering classes, workshops and study sessions in order to tailor services based on what the community wants. Perez is already discussing the idea of a potential partnership with Oregon State University in developing a pipeline program to prepare students for successful transfer from the Rogue Valley to OSU.
Before participating in the “Not-for-Profit Way” training, Perez says she had a strong idea of the services she wanted to provide, but enrolled to learn more about nonprofit incorporation and rapid growth.
The nine-week training course is offered through Cascades Hub, a collaborative workspace located at SOU that provides resources for anyone interested in organizing or revitalizing community projects.
The course content is derived from Dr. Donnie Maclurcan’s experience as a not-for-profit advocate and consultant working to establish over 160 community projects across the globe.
In addition to Thrive Education, projects that will be launched include a pitbull rescue and advocacy program, a Christmas tree pickup and delivery service, a proposal to increase housing opportunities for the homeless locals, a business celebrating the art of tea ceremony, solar panel installation for low-income households, a guitar manufacturing business, a wilderness experience program for women and a national tour for a musical and improvisation group.
Although attendees of Presentation Night may donate money, Maclurcan says that it’s not about the funds. It’s about learning how the community responds to the new projects.
“The point is to resource up these projects very fast in a very exciting way that’s very participatory. We don’t need investors or people with nonprofit experience in the audience. Whoever shows up, I’m excited to welcome them in because there are so many ways people can contribute to these projects,” says Maclurcan.
Everybody in the audience will have the opportunity to vote on which projects they would like to see funded. Half of all funds raised will be divided evenly among the 10 projects. The other half will be split based on votes. This approach allows people to engage with the projects without feeling any pressure to invest.
The training program itself eliminates the fear of competition that is typical of nonprofits fighting for resources by teaching ways to map strategic collaborations.
Maclurcan is not afraid to take new approaches. Projects are built around each individual’s strengths, passions and skills, rather than the traditional approach of meeting a need in the community with big infrastructure. The course borrows strategies from big businesses and Silicon Valley start-ups, and business models underlie each of the projects that are launching.
“Most nonprofits are always struggling with fundraising. There’s this attitude that there’s never enough money to go around,” reflects Perez, “This class has helped me get more creative about raising money to do good work.”
“Nonprofits should be the collaborative bastion of society. People working together for the greater good with enough space for differentiation between projects that seem similar,” says Maclurcan.
There is room, says Perez, for 10 new community projects to make the Rogue Valley even better, even in the same night.
Presentation Night is set for 6 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, May 1, in SOU’s Meese Auditorium. Although admission is free, there is a $20 suggested donation. For more information, visit www.cascadeshub.org.
Ashland resident Angelica Crimmins is a freelance writer.