Coming Together Under the Branches

Coming Together Under the Branches of the Community Foundation

Sustainability. Longevity. Strength. These are all goals that nonprofit organizations seek as they endeavor to change the community around them for the better. The Community Foundation of Elkhart County provides those qualities. We help many organizations pool their investments together to get access to better performing, long-term financial products. We also serve as a shade tree under which likeminded groups can get together and put their heads together to figure out how to improve our community.

Ask Ritch Hochstetler, the president of uLEAD, a 17-year-old character-bulding organization. Hochstetler and his board this year decided that the Community Foundation offered them the most effective options to not only manage their funds, but to reach the nonprofits they strive to serve in this area.

In fact, the Community Foundation has opened doors for uLEAD that have amazed Hochstetler. “The Community Foundation has the expertise and the management consultation to help our board to manage our resources in a way that our mission will continue to happen,” and the Community Foundation has brought other nonprofits alongside uLEAD in positive collaborations that never would’ve happened without the Community Foundation.

uLEAD was started in 1998 to create opportunities for character and leadership education for teens and young adults. “Our focus is on developing leaders, fostering growth and inspiring change,” explained Hochstetler, uLEAD’s president for the last decade. “Our highest value is servant leadership, so we’re looking to take the principles of servant leadership and to find ways to communicate that so it can be something that can be integrated into people’s lives.”

Hochstetler said, “We’re looking at connecting ourselves with organizations that share our values … We learned that the values of the Community Foundation: youth development, vibrant communities, increasing the quality of life — those are all kinds of values that are part of persons and organizations that are committed to servant leadership.”

Especially appealing was the opportunity to become part of the donor-matching program, which enhances the funds raised by uLEAD to serve teens and young adults. It was the new opportunities — solid financial management, coming to the table with the organizations uLEAD serves, and the core values of the Community Foundation — which led uLEAD’s board to decide to entrust their funds with the Community Foundation.

“The sustainability provides us with peace of mind. The founder of our organization wanted to set up this organization so that it lasts, so that it continues. If staffing changes, if board members change, we still have that same commitment to managing what has been given to us to accomplish our mission,” Hochstetler said. There are no regrets about partnering with the Community Foundation.

“I’m excited about the possibilities. uLEAD is about heart work, about working that transformation, and I feel like the Community Foundation, that’s what they value, lasting change and heart work. It’s a really good partnership.”

For any organization contemplating working with the Community Foundation, Hochstetler has simple advice. Get in touch with the Community Foundation.

“Start a conversation,” he said. “Share your mission, share what you are trying to accomplish. Let the Community Foundation listen and bring their expertise and their thoughts, because they can help you to think through possibilities. They can help you think through how you can be connected and the services they offer that can enhance the work that you do.”