Tuesday marked an important milestone for nonprofits in our community. The Institute for Nonprofit Innovation and Excellence officially opened in its new permanent home at the TCC Capitol Center.
It’s been a long journey to get here. I remember shortly after I became president at TCC being approached by several area nonprofit leaders about the lack of advocacy efforts for their sector in our area. Having served on multiple boards, I already knew the impact that nonprofits have on our community, not just in terms of social value for the vital services they provide, which is immeasurable, but economic value as well. With something like 800 not-for-profits in Tallahassee alone, each year these organizations funnel millions of dollars back into the local economy for things like hiring staff, professional fees such as accounting and legal counsel, purchasing supplies, renting office space, obtaining insurance coverage, etc. I could immediately see both the need and the potential. With training and networking opportunities, we could create something to provide our area’s nonprofits with the leg up they need to compete for limited resources no matter their size or mission. Such a program would be less about TCC or establishing a brand, and more about designing a place where synergies could come together.
INIE is now well-positioned at the Capitol Center just steps from the state capitol and city hall and with over 9,000 square feet of flexible office and meeting space to facilitate collaboration and innovation. I credit much to VP Kimberly Moore for her leadership in making it happen. She understood that we would need to provide the foundation – we didn’t want nonprofits raising money for salaries or furniture, we wanted nonprofits raising money to make a difference. And INIE wouldn’t be what it is today without executive director Jessica Lowe Minor who has been at the helm for well over a year now and has made a remarkable difference including the development of the social entrepreneur program. As a result, we are now one of only four or five communities in Florida with this kind of infrastructure built intentionally to its purpose.
The positive feedback has been overwhelming. The opening was well-attended and I was glad to hear several speak who have already been impacted by INIE including Darby Kerrigan, executive director of the Legal Aid Foundation spoke at the opening about how the Institute helped her get started as a new ED and get started well. In fact the workshops and special events, like our first-ever Nonprofit Enterprise & Social Innovation Summit (NESI) held earlier this month, have all been well received and have exceeded our expectations.
I want to see nonprofits continue to use INIE as a place for creativity, innovation and growth, but more importantly, I want to see INIE continue to help develop more nonprofit professionals like Darby who can help increase the capacity of their organizations and be assets to the people they serve.