Nexus Community Partners is a community building intermediary working to strengthen and engage communities of color and immigrant communities to create positive change in their neighborhoods. The organization was founded in 2004 as Payne-Lake Community Partners, to support entrepreneurship, home ownership, and workforce initiatives around the Payne Ave. and Lake Street communities in St. Paul and Minneapolis. In early 2007, with new leadership in place, the organization underwent a strategic planning initiative to better understand the outcomes of their work in the communities they served. What they learned was that the neighborhoods in which they worked were doing better, but the people were not. They decided to shift their focus to the people in the community: strengthening the social, cultural and human capital of residents so they could engage more fully in their neighborhoods and to take advantage of all of their economic potential.
Over the years, Nexus continued to grow in both the scope of their work and their reputation.In 2009, the organization was invited to expand into North Minneapolis and in 2011 they became a 501c3, and went through a rebrand. To keep up with the growing demand for their work, they knew their staff of four would need to expand.
Felicia Ring, Nexus’ Controller, joined the organization in 2012 to help build a financial infrastructure to support their growth. Felicia brought a wealth of experience to Nexus, including having led another nonprofit as executive director, and 15+ years of experience in the sector. She had been to a number of workshops and trainings that Propel Nonprofits (formerly Nonprofits Assistance Fund) offered over the years, but hadn’t yet worked with them for financial assistance. “In 2014, we started to explore various lines of credit and banking options,” Felicia said, “but traditional banks weren’t interested in us—they perceived us as risky, and we didn’t have much of a financial history because we were just starting to grow significantly.” That’s when she and the Nexus team began talking with Propel Nonprofits about a line of credit to support their growth.
“The organization had such a solid foundation—and Felicia is incredible,” said Allison Wagstrom of Propel Nonprofits—Nexus’ loan officer and relationship manager. “They have a line of credit with us, but have never had to draw from it—it’s simply there in case they need it.” But the relationship doesn’t start and end with the financial assistance.
Propel Nonprofits has also supported Nexus in revising board documents and communications to tell a better financial story. “We knew our board documents needed to be revised,” Felicia said, “Our work with Propel Nonprofits has been really helpful in making them more relevant to what the board wants and needs to see from us. It’s really helped them understand our financial position.”
Theresa Gardella, Nexus’ Director of Strategic Development, said she is most appreciative of Propel Nonprofits’ support in helping them rethink financial communications. “We have such clear financials that the board has a level of understanding and investment today that I’m not sure they had before.” The work has also helped with fundraising. Theresa said, “We can now show our funders our financial picture in such a way that they can understand the impact of their contributions on our work, and on our communities.”
“It’s such a reciprocal relationship,” Allison said. “We may be helping Nexus from a financial and sustainability standpoint, but we’ve learned so much from them as well. They’re leading hard conversations in our field that need to be had—about how we interact with and support each other—how we can actually help each other. They live those virtues every day and it’s an honor to work with them.”
When asked what she would tell other nonprofit financial leaders about working with Propel Nonprofits, Theresa and Felicia both had much to offer.
“I think people know about Propel Nonprofits because of the classes and workshops—but then they also think of them when in crisis,” Theresa told us. “Propel Nonprofits can actually help you prevent crises for your organization—not just help you through them. I think more people need to understand that!”
“My advice to any organization would be—don’t wait,” she continued. “Be proactive and reach out to Propel Nonprofits. It’s about being a strong organization and being proactive, and thinking about your sustainability into the future.”
Felicia agreed. “Every time I walk away from a conversation with Propel Nonprofits I always have a tidbit I can go back and use. I don’t speak accountant, so it could be a high-level accounting question, or it could be accounting 101. There’s no judgment, they just want to help. They understand that nonprofit financial professionals come from all walks of life and all educational backgrounds—they are willing to help and break it down to whatever level you need. Just be open, because they are, and they’re so willing to help.”
Propel Nonprofits is proud to partner with Nexus Community Partners to support their important community building and engagement efforts in our communities. To learn more about Nexus Community Partners and their impact on the communities they serve, click here.