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Monday, May 20, 2024

University of Texas training benefits local nonprofits

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Nonprofit organizations in Artesia, New Mexico are learning to better serve their missions through a one-of-a-kind program developed by the PY Foundation & UT’s Extended Campus Custom Training

Working closely with Artesia nonprofits, PY Foundation Executive Director Sandra Borges knew that grant dollars and enthusiasm weren’t enough to accomplish community goals. “We wanted to give grantees tools and resources to better accomplish their missions and improve sustainability.”
She wondered aloud about collaborating with The University of Texas at Austin during a 2016 visit from UT development officer Amanda Brown Irving. “I thought there must be instructors or professors who could help us with the skills necessary to operate a nonprofit successfully,” Borges said. Amanda knew exactly what to do. She put me in touch with UT’s Extended Campus and we started brainstorming immediately.”
Within a year, trainers rolled into Artesia ready to teach custom programs designed to give nonprofit staffs the skills and knowledge we needed, with no travel costs or inconveniences.
Training in Artesia is delivered in quarterly sessions, with two topics each, ranging from HR issues to financing and marketing. No lesson is cookie-cutter or set in stone.
“We’re responsive,” said Melissa Kirk, ECCT senior administrative program coordinator. “During one session we heard that some of the nonprofits were having issues with their boards. Our instructor was able to pivot on the fly and provide practical examples to help them.”
Training has paid off across the community including groups that support early childhood education, sober living, a home for single moms, and many other dedicated nonprofits.

For example, during one session, an executive director learned about capital campaigns and fundraising and left with a plan ready to implement. Borges is proud of the impact of the program. “It’s inspiring to see people take this content and run with it to do something really great with what they learn. I love that these classes are inspiring nonprofits to go out and conquer the world.”

Outside the classroom, a backdrop for networking and team building developed organically across diverse groups. “It was wonderful to see them come together this way,” said Destiny Rojo, PY Foundation program officer. “It was like their own little mentorship program. They would collaborate more. Nobody forced that.”

“It’s a cool ecosystem,” professor Alessandro Gabbi agreed. “An amazing community where people lean on each other. I was impressed. Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like what PY Foundation does in this community.”

Nearly six years and dozens of classes later, the ongoing training from UT contributes to a thriving community by helping passionate staffers serve their nonprofits effectively and efficiently. “We are blessed to have people that truly care about Artesia and that have invested in the community,” Borges said. “We want to make sure that we are providing a good quality of life. The Chamber of Commerce, the City of Artesia, and our nonprofits and corporate partners along with many individuals are working together to make Artesia a better place. UT is part of that picture.”
Source: Extended Education Ventures, The University of Texas at Austin, 2023

In September, the 2023 session of PY Academy wrapped up with a graduation reception at the Ocotillo Theater. Individuals from several organization were honored at the graduation ceremony including Artesia Daily Press, Artesia MainStreet, Artesia Police Department, Chase Foundation, City of Artesia, Carlsbad MainStreet, Haven of Hope, LifeHouse, Little Castle Learning Center, STEM Camp and Written in Red Foundation.

Storytelling and Networking were the focus for the final sessions and all of the students participated in “Shark Tank” style presentations for the opportunity to win real money towards their community project.

Together, the PY Foundation, Chase Foundation & an anonymous donor, came up with $4,000 to donate to the winning organizations. Eight different causes, ranging from art education to lap tops for single mothers, were presented to the judges on Wednesday afternoon and the winners were announced at the graduation reception that evening.

Judges for the presentations were Vicky Townley, EVP Chief Administration Officer at First American Bank, Dickie Townley, Retired Holly Frontier & President of Artesia Classical Academy & Missi Currier, President & CEO of New Mexico Oil & Gas.

LifeHouse was the 3rd place winner and received $1,000 toward the purchase of new laptops for the residents at their sober living facility in Artesia. Artesia Police Department won 2nd place in the contest and received $1,000 toward their Honor Escort program. APD had the audience in tears when they turned around and donated the money back to LifeHouse & Haven of Hope for the purchase of their new laptops for local residents. The first place winner, receiving $2,000, was Soles for Students presented by the Executive Director, Elisabeth Jackson. The Soles for Students program provides new shoes for local kids in need!

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