When schools struggle in communities experiencing high levels of poverty, it’s not just the schools that need community support to improve. Communities also need community support, which is where nonprofit organizations often play an important role.
While Education Northwest is dedicated to strengthening schools and communities, it's the organization's work with schools that gets the most attention. Dahnesh Medora, who provides technical assistance to nonprofits and belongs to the arm of the organization that builds the capacity of communities, sees potential connections between schools and nonprofits.
“What nonprofits often do is complement what a school provides, for example, by providing services to children with disabilities and immigrant communities,” Medora says. “One thing nonprofits and schools have in common is that they will take on the tough challenges no one else will. Schools and nonprofits dare to ’go there’.’”
In providing technical and problem-solving assistance, Medora helps nonprofits build the capacity of organization leaders to understand and meet the needs of their constituents. He’s worked with nonprofits on issues like diversity, program evaluation, strategic planning, leadership-development plans, and has helped create interventions for any number of dilemmas that organizations face.
Nonprofits are incredibly diffuse and cover all the issues out there. They cover the gaps not filled in by government, and it's hard to think of a topic that nonprofits do not touch. While they are proactive in finding solutions and aspire to make the world a better place, they are often underappreciated and under resourced. People say there are too many nonprofits out there, but I disagree. You rarely hear people say we have too many businesses. A thriving and effective nonprofit sector is an indicator of a healthy and democratic society.
In his role, Medora also helps nonprofits around issues of equity. “Nonprofits are on the front line of addressing issues of equity, and if the work of the nonprofit sector is not accessible to the full range of people — particularly those who are traditionally marginalized — you can see that something is wrong,” he says. “Our goal is to provide services at the highest possible level of quality to the people who most need it.”
Based on his own observations, Medora would like to see schools and nonprofits work together more closely. “Nonprofits can serve schools as a gateway to the community,” he says. “They are often an underutilized and misunderstood resource. It would be great to help schools think about nonprofits in a more engaging way and to help nonprofits also take a step in that direction, with a goal of better serving kids on the margin.”