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  • Writer's pictureMackenzie Langley

Unlocking the Magic: A Recap of Collaborate & Elevate Nonprofit Networking

Updated: Mar 5

You know you are meeting a need and there is a hunger for in person collaboration when the event check in time is slotted from 8:30am-9:00am and there is a line out the door at 8:25.

Our first Lighthouse community event on February 22nd took place at the stunning Rag + Bale venue. As soon as attendees walked in, they were greeted by an ambiance that resonated with dignity and purpose. It was clear that this wasn't just any nonprofit networking event; every detail, from the venue selection to the curated content, was thoughtfully designed to elevate the nonprofit experience. At Lighthouse we believe that nonprofits deserve to connect in spaces of dignity, and Rag and Bale provided the perfect backdrop for this transformative gathering.

The event was centered around the theme of 'Collaborate & Elevate,' setting the tone for a day of collective problem-solving and empowerment. Attendees were encouraged to come prepared with a challenge their organization was facing, setting the stage for collaborative discussions and actionable solutions. By fostering an environment of shared expertise and innovative thinking, we aimed to provide each participant with the opportunity to develop strategic action plans tailored to their organization's unique challenges.

Prior to the event, we invited organizations to share their challenges through an open-ended text box, providing valuable insight into the diverse array of issues facing the nonprofit sector. While this approach offered rich context, the complexity of the responses posed a challenge in identifying suitable thought partners. However, we rose to the occasion, ultimately identifying four overarching themes: Funding, Community Partnerships, Sustainability & Navigating Change, and Scaling & Growth.

After a lively thirty-minute check-in period, complete with delicious donuts, generously donated by Voodoo Donuts for the occasion, we kicked off the day with an interactive icebreaker: the '4 Corners' game. Participants gathered to discuss various topics, such as their tenure in their organization, their roles, and the size of their teams. This engaging activity not only encouraged movement but also facilitated meaningful conversations among attendees, helping to break the ice and foster connections. At Lighthouse we believe that cultivating a playful atmosphere is essential for nurturing relationships and building a strong sense of community. The energy brought to life in the midst of this activity exemplified that belief.

Following the initial icebreaker activity, participants were grouped based on the size of their organizations. Each group then gathered to address the challenges they brought forward. While each nonprofit employee (within each group) may have presented different issues, grouping them by size allowed for more targeted discussions and practical solutions. For instance, Robbin, Executive Director at HopeKids found this particularly valuable, noting the importance of speaking with organizations of similar size. Robbin expressed:

"You know, getting to speak with other organizations of similar size about the issue we are facing was so helpful. I find when I talk to bigger organizations the responses are sometimes 'oh well, just have the 'such and such' department do it- when you wear many hats and are also the 'such and such' department, that's not always helpful to hear, so learning how similar organizations have navigated these challenges was incredibly valuable."

After the initial round of discussions, participants were regrouped based on their specific issue areas. Each group was thoughtfully curated to ensure compatibility and value, reflecting the diverse array of challenges brought forward. As the room buzzed with renewed energy and conversation, one leader approached me to express his appreciation for the event, highlighting that working in the social impact sector can be lonely and there is incredible value in cultivating a community of support, to share challenges, and collaborate on solutions.

As the event reached its conclusion, we gathered to reflect on the main takeaways from the event. Joshua, the visionary behind Joshua Wave, eloquently expressed how the feedback he received had sparked a wave of inspiration, fueling his resolve to tackle his organization's challenge in a new way, and the joy he found in supporting fellow nonprofit leaders identify opportunities in the face of their challenges as well. He then went on to say that this was one of the  best nonprofit networking events he has attended, affirming for us the truth that when you bring people together with intention, magic happens

Then from the back of the room, Tom, representing Front Porch Farms, stood up and echoed a sentiment that had been brewing throughout the day. He made an impassioned plea for more frequent gatherings and it struck a chord, as many resonated with the longing for more sustained collaboration and cross-organizational support. This heartfelt call mirrored the day's overarching theme of breaking down silos and fostering a sense of unity within the nonprofit sector. Tracey from One Good Turn then seized the moment, emphasizing that thanks to Lighthouse, the conversations didn’t have to end with the event but could seamlessly continue online, fostering continued collaboration and cross-organizational support.

At Lighthouse, we've witnessed the profound impact of collaboration firsthand, as highlighted by Robbin, Joshua, Tracey, and Tom. Through both in-person gatherings and our online community, we're on a mission to foster connections that break down barriers and unite local nonprofit organizations for greater impact. This first event, attended by leaders from over 30 diverse nonprofits, exemplified this spirit, transforming strangers into allies and igniting innovative solutions to common challenges. The palpable energy and sense of community experienced during the event marked the beginning of a grassroots-led movement. It became abundantly clear: the energy, the connections, and the collective wisdom cultivated throughout the day were not just fleeting experiences—they were the seeds of a movement.

Keep an eye out and be ready to mark you calendar for more intentional gatherings like this to come ✨

Additionally, a HUGE shoutout goes to Tes from Transformative Gatherings and Emma our Senior Intern from Regis High School for co-creating this incredible event alongside Lighthouse.

To finish, one final thank you to Erica Krysl from One Good Turn for capturing the magic of the event with her camera. Aren't these photos great?


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