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Columbus Nonprofits Must Learn to Multitask to Adapt to Needs of Community

Walker Evans Walker Evans Columbus Nonprofits Must Learn to Multitask to Adapt to Needs of CommunityPhoto by Rick Buchanan.
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In order for nonprofits to adapt to the changing needs of the community, they have to learn to multitask. David Brown, Creative Director and Founder of The Harmony Project, sees this in his own organization, which has mission touch points that range from education, to the arts, to neighborhood engagement.

“It’s really difficult to be a one-service provider anymore,” stated Brown during a recent interview with Columbus Underground. “More and more nonprofits are understanding that the future is multiple touch points, and more and more organizations are becoming multi-service providers. Or, maybe they were all along, but have really changed the way they focus on their message.”

The Harmony Project, founded in 2009, is one of the city’s premiere vocal chorus organizations, which according to Brown, “exists at the intersection of artistic passion and social purpose.” The group has programs that range from working with high schoolers interested in the arts, to engagement with differently-abled adults, to working with area prisoners.

“We coordinate people from different backgrounds, different neighborhoods and different cultures and put them to work in the community,” explains Brown. “And the way we bring them together is through the vehicle of the arts.”

On October 10, Harmony Project will be one of over 900 nonprofits taking part in The Big Give, a 26-hour philanthropic event that allows everyone in Central Ohio to give to charitable organizations in a big way. The funds raised this year will be amplified by a $1.3 million donor’s bonus pool, giving nonprofits a boost to their bottom line.

“What is amazing is that it’s unrestricted funds,” says Brown. “That allows nonprofits to dream, and to respond to current trends. This can be a game changer for a lot of nonprofits.”

Brown is planning to utilize funds raised this year to expand Harmony Project’s staff and capacities in 2018 and beyond.

“Our service projects have grown considerably — we have a full-time person devoted to community service, with 13 different community service projects,” he explained. “We’ll be taking our South High School students to Atlanta next year to study the life of Dr. King. We’re also taking a big leap of faith with our December concert and moving it to Nationwide Arena. Having new funds helps with some of our planning concerns and with the hiring of artists.”

Brown says that his organization has spent over $200,000 on local artist salaries — which includes musicians, painters, choreographers and others.

“It’s not just about music anymore,” he stated. “It’s about putting people to work.”

During the 26 hours of The Big Give, Harmony Project will be giving back in their own way. In 2015, the organization painted a community mural at the offices of The Columbus Foundation, working around the clock in two hour shifts. This year, the organization will be participating in what they call “Kindness Around the Clock.” During the full 26 hours, his team and a group of volunteers will be traveling throughout the community, visiting the “unsung heroes” of Columbus, bringing them coffee, hot chocolate, bagels, thank you notes and other types of celebratory cheer.

“We’ll be visiting school bus drivers, workers at shelters and emergency room workers,” he says. “We’ll be visiting the folks who have to be kind in the work they do, and we’ll be giving kindness back to them.”

In 2015, The Big Give raised over $15 million in 24 hours, and over 900 area nonprofits received 100 percent of all funds raised. Brown stated that he considers Columbus to be fortunate to have a program like this provided by The Columbus Foundation and its staff, and a community willing to donate generously when it counts the most.

“The things that divide us in this country are going to continue to divide us,” added Brown. “But you can’t let that be a barrier to accomplish what we want to accomplish in the community.”

For more information, visit www.harmonyproject.com.

To learn more about The Big Give, visit columbusfoundation.org/giving-events/big-give-2017.

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