WORKING TOGETHER: Michelle Novello, program coordinator at the Providence Community Library, reads to Marelyn Colon, 5, of Providence. Novello’s group’s collaboration with two Providence nonprofits helped land a $250,000 grant last year.
Michelle Novello, a program coordinator at the Providence Community Library, got wind of a $250,000 grant on reading readiness last year but had only two weeks to apply.
Because of her involvement with the Providence Children and Youth Cabinet, a nonprofit dedicated to educating young people from cradle to career, Novello had already been working with Ready to Learn Providence, another nonprofit. Together, the library and Ready to Learn Providence designed a program in collaboration with the Providence school district called “Ready for K!” and won the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant in late September.
The Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative has also dedicated four outreach workers to the project, she said.
Ready for K! began in mid-January with a six-week program for parents to register their children for kindergarten and get library cards at the same time. Following orientation in March, a 12-session program scheduled through August will coach parents on how to help their children read in anticipation of the start of the 2014-15 academic year, Novello said.
Novello’s involvement with the Cabinet helped her meet other nonprofit and city leaders, so that when an opportunity like this grant came along, she said, they could partner to get it done.
“Collaborating is critical to moving the needle, to having the children reading by grade level in Providence,” Novello said. “It can’t happen without a lot of us working together, because the size of the problem is so large it takes a community.”
About one in three nonprofits collaborated with their peers in 2013 to improve services or streamline operations, compared with 2008, observed Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation. Five years ago, that interest in and readiness to cooperate barely existed, he said.
RIF does not collect data on this but says it has observed an increase, particularly in the last few years.
Since 2010 RIF has provided, on average, about $30 million annually in funding to nonprofits – those “boots on the ground partners” that work in the community, he said, adding that the foundation is responsible for managing 1,300 different funds.
The scarcity of funding and intricacy of issues ranging from health care to environmental stewardship and academic performance make collaboration a critical tool today, Steinberg said, though the potential for it and practice of it has been around for some time. He said the approach today is to share ideas, not just resources.