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The Quad Cities Community Foundation is laying the “building blocks” for its new Center for Nonprofit Excellence with help of philanthropic leaders and the inaugural director of the center by and for nonprofits. If all goes as planned, the center could be ready to serve the nonprofit community by early 2024. Area donors and nonprofits have for years been seeking the kind of collective approach to excellence that will be offered at the center currently under construction, Kelly Thompson, the community foundation’s vice president of grantmaking and community initiatives, told the QCBJ. She was joined in that recent interview by Daisy Moran, who became the center’s first director in early September. Since then, Ms. Moran has been deeply involved in the effort to grow the robust Quad Cities nonprofit sector’s impact and make it one of the nation’s best. The center also is expected to serve as a central hub and champion for nonprofits and philanthropy. Community interest in the effort remains high. In fact, 70 local leaders had already signed up at this writing to join a 12-member advisory group to guide its development and operation. “I think, honestly, that’s beyond what I hoped for and we take it with great appreciation and humility because nonprofit professionals are busy,” Ms. Thompson said. While not all applicants will be able to serve on the main advisory board, she said, there will be other ways to get involved in shaping the collaborative nonprofit center, and she encouraged others to continue signing up to serve. The process to fund the startup center is equally collaborative. In addition to funds from the QC Community Foundation Board and a leadership gift from Quad Cities philanthropists Hunt and Diane Harris, the Regional Development Authority committed a three-year grant to the launch. The foundation’s timeline for getting the center off the ground is an aggressive one. By the end of December the goal is to have the advisory group in place and the existing programs and partnerships aligned at the center. In January 2024, leaders will assess needs and opportunities for other services and programs, prioritize and develop services and deploy early investment opportunities based on community priorities. Before that can happen, however, the center’s bones must be in place. “At this stage we’re kind of at the building blocks,” Ms. Thompson told the QCBJ. For example, since her hiring, Ms. Moran has been reaching out to local community nonprofit leaders and visiting thriving nonprofit excellence centers and programs around the nation. “We’re being strategic to learn from all three separate regions to see what are the best practices and challenges,” Ms. Moran told the QCBJ regarding those fact-finding missions. The need for the new center locally also is clear, as donors and nonprofits look for more ways to network effectively. “There are existing programs and supports that the Quad Cities Community Foundation has had for over a decade for nonprofits beyond the grants,” Ms. Thompson said. For example, nearly every organization, whether it is in the public or private sector, seeks to build capacity, she said. That, in turn, is centered on building a strong core of knowledge in such areas government, finance, leadership, management knowledge and capability. Finding funding that will pay for that critical tactical and operational training is challenging. That’s also why “we have focused on nonprofit capacity building for over a decade through a specific grant program,” Ms. Thompson said. Those efforts have included such networking groups as CEOLink, DevelopmentLink. In everyday conversations, and at networking and focus groups and strategic planning sessions the foundation has learned “that those things are working and there’s a demand for more,” she added. Current planning also is focused on getting in place the resources that make the most sense, are worthwhile and driven by the needs and priorities of nonprofits “because they are the ones who are best aware of what they need to do to accomplish their missions,” Ms. Thompson said. “Our local nonprofits are deepening their work every year; that growth brings new questions, and for so many, they trust the Community Foundation to help them answer those questions,” she added. “We want to build on that trust, and that’s where the center comes in.” The center also will serve as a permanent home for collective sector-specific knowledge and provide a “common point of connection for our regional partners, allowing them to access our educational resources and work collaboratively with other local nonprofits,” QC Community Foundation Executive Director Sue Hafkemeyer said in announcing the effort in June. By providing a space for collaboration and shared knowledge, it also will build and strengthen the systems, structures, cultures, skills, resources and power we all need to serve our community with excellence, she said at the time. “The center represents an opportunity to amplify the Quad Cities as a nationally recognized leader in the nonprofit sector,” Ms. Moran added. “We have transformational community leaders and organizations. This is the moment to leverage those relationships, collaborate, and examine the root causes of the challenges we face as a community.”