Local philanthropist wants to help nonprofits change their financial ways | AspenTimes.com

Local philanthropist wants to help nonprofits change their financial ways

John Colson

Woody Creek philanthropist George Stranahan has an idea about changing the way nonprofits keep themselves afloat.He said certain nonprofits are capable of finding ways “to stand on their own” to generate revenue that have less to do with corporate, individual or government largesse, and more to do with self-sufficiency.It’s an idea, Stranahan said, that’s been around for about a decade but has yet to really catch fire in the world of nonprofit philanthropy.To help the idea catch on, Stranahan and cohorts – local financial consultant Michael McVoy, workshop organizer Morgan McIntyre, mediator Tim McFlynn and entrepreneur Jeff Seltzer, among others – have created the Manaus Fund, which aims to help nonprofits learn to use business techniques to solve social problems.The Manaus Fund, McFlynn said, is a “donor-advised fund” that operates under the umbrella of the Aspen Community Foundation. Its goal is to encourage social entrapreneurship, which Stranahan described in a letter to prospective nonprofit beneficiaries as “the double bottom line trade,” or the idea that “paying good attention to the financial bottom line also improves the social bottom line.”Stranahan, an heir to the Champion spark plugs fortune, is a well-known supporter of local nonprofits and causes. He founded the Compass educational campus and Aspen Community School, to name a few.But he said this week the time-honored system under which wealthy patrons and corporations give money to help nonprofit organizations do their work “just really isn’t working very successfully any more.”He said the breakdown in the old charity-giving network is caused by a rise in young, newly wealthy entrepreneurs whose philanthropic interests are not the same as those of their wealthy predecessors.He said the idea is not to create a nonprofit with a highly paid management team that gets rich at the expense of the organization’s mission.”The principle is not that you’re going to scam,” he said. “If you’re plowing the fields of social work, you are a professional.” As such, he said, the managers should be paid commensurately.The principle, as Stranahan sees it, is, “I earn my way, rather than beg my way.” In general, he said, “We think these are beneficial changes … and a way to restructure the way social work is accomplished.”But, he said, it is not meant to eliminate the more basic functions of social service, such as soup kitchens and other direct aid to the needy, because “there should always be those.”Stranahan admitted that “it’s troublesome, in the legal sense” that nonprofit organizations run a risk of losing their tax-exempt status under this new arrangement. But, he said half-jokingly, “If they make enough money to lose their status, I think they’d love to lose it.”He said the laws governing this area are out of date and should be revised to accommodate social entrepreneurship.McFlynn characterized Stranahan as being “on the front of the wave” of the social entrapreneurship movement.”This has been a vision and a dream that [Stranahan] has had for some years,” McFlynn said, “even though it’s new to the valley.”The workshop designed for board members and staffers of nonprofits is scheduled for Saturday, July 16. It starts at 9:30 a.m. and ends around 5 p.m. It will feature talks by experts in the fledgling field, as well as question and answer sessions, brainstorming time, and a description of a sample business plan. Food will be served to participants.For more information or to sign up for the workshop, e-mail to manaus@sopris.com or call 963-5881.Manaus Fund WorkshopWhen: 9:30 a.m. July 16Where: Flying Dog Ranch West, CarbondaleHow: e-mail manaus@sopris.com or call 963-1929

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