Non-profit groups are the backbone of Columbia Basin communities. In 2015, Columbia Basin Trust launched its new Non-profit Advisors Program, offering information and expertise in board governance, strategic planning, human resources and financial, legal and administrative management.

More than 300 non-profit organizations from across the Basin have reached out for advice, support and resources. This includes over 100 that have completed the free assessment and worked alongside an advisor free of charge to discuss that organization’s strengths and challenges, and what steps it can take to operate more efficiently.

Financial Fix

Based in Revelstoke, the North Columbia Environment Society promotes sustainable living and protection of  the natural environment. It was formed in 1999 to address environmental issues facing Revelstoke residents, and its members believe that social, economic and environmental aspects of community life need to be considered equally.

Spokesperson Jody Lownds says the society accessed the Trust’s program to deal with challenges around financial management and strategic planning. “The advisor we worked with made us really think about the ways our society has been operating and potentially better ways to do things. She worked with us to obtain two consultants for the areas we needed the most assistance with.”

Now, with a new bookkeeping system and financial management policies in place, Lownds says the future of the society looks bright.

Going for Governance

The Trail and District Chamber of Commerce supports and encourages growth and development in the local business community.

Executive Director Audry Lochrie recognized the value that the Trust’s Non-profit Advisors Program could provide.

“With only a small board and no budget, we needed governance training before any strategic planning could be undertaken.”

After meeting with an advisor and completing the assessment, the chamber acted on a recommendation for governance training. Lochrie praises the efforts of the governance consultant, who “really nailed all of our issues. She identified the steps we needed to take before even looking at a strategic plan. Six months later, I’m happy to report that we have doubled our board, and are ready to develop our three-year strategic plan.”

Strategic Future

Since 2009, volunteers at the Little Mittens Animal Rescue Association have been rescuing stray and feral cats and kittens in and around Golden—up to 200 animals a year. Fundraising efforts have allowed the association to build a permanent shelter and offer several programs to the community, including the Trap-Neuter-Release Program, low income spay/neuter voucher program and pet foster program. But the society was looking for continued funding development and wanted to set goals for a sustainable future.

Executive Director Alannah Knapp contacted the Trust for support. “Each board member was asked to think individually about our personal goals for the rescue and how we wanted to move the organization forward,” she states.

“The facilitator was able to break these ideas down into a plan that I don’t think we ever would have been able to see for ourselves.”

Since that meeting, the Little Mittens board has met with a strategic planner—also supported by the Trust—to further cement its strategic goals. Says Knapp, “I feel as though this service was able to get us organized in a way we did not have the means to do previously.”

Goal Setting

In Sparwood, the volunteer-run Sunset Ridge Ski Society sets and maintains cross-country ski trails and encourages participation in this healthy sporting activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels.

Chairperson Shelly Hume says the society went to the Trust to figure out better ways to meet the needs of Sparwood residents. After undertaking a free assessment with an advisor, it received several resources and suggestions in a report. The program also enabled the society to access a facilitator for a strategic planning session that focused on how to make best use of the society’s resources.

“The program helped us develop a community survey for both members and non-members, which helped us set some goals for the future,” says Hume.

“Most importantly, we set priorities for 2016 to 2018, with concrete goals identified in governance, facilities, programs, membership and community partnerships.”

“The advisor was able to recommend other services we were not aware of.”