Homer Outdoor Wilderness Leaders (HoWL) is the perfect example of everything that is exciting about nonprofits.
Dedicated to providing outdoor, experiential education to young people in Alaska, HoWL’s founder Libby Veasey created an organization committed to teaching kids how to explore Alaska’s wild lands. Since 2009, HoWL has been taking youth on wilderness backcountry expeditions ranging from two to 14 days long. They teach environmental stewardship, teamwork, survival skills, and leadership, and even provide scholarships to those who cannot afford it.
But in 2014, they needed infrastructural support. So they applied for a Strengthening Organizations grant from the Alaska Community Foundation—and changed their ability to operate more effectively. They hired an external contractor to help the organization’s leaders develop and implement financial policies, create work plans and budgets, develop a Finance Committee on the board, and eventually hire a professional bookkeeper.
The results have had lasting effects. HoWL staff say,
Because of the grant, HoWL has been able to move forward dramatically. The project turned our company from a small startup organization to a more sophisticated organization with a full team of people at the helm. We have been able to improve our programs because HoWL’s founder has since moved into the program’s director position focusing on our mission’s work.
HoWL notes that the ACF funding is unusual in that most funders want to focus on new projects. The Strengthening Organization grant allows a nonprofit to focus its time and energy on strengthening its core operations, which has lasting effects.