LPP looking for new nonprofit projects

A new volunteer program for the Colorado Springs police and fire department; a new bicycle shed for Urban Peak; a new name and image for a 100-year-old Colorado Springs nonprofit.

These projects – plus many more – were all part of the classes at Leadership Pikes Peak. And this year, they’re looking for more projects. Two classes start this fall, and the deadline for projects is Aug. 8. Another class starts in January, said Susan Saksa, executive director of Leadership Pikes Peak.

“These projects are really an important part of what we do – train leaders,” she said. “And they’re an important part of the community as well.”

Not only do the nonprofits get a specific project accomplished, occasionally, they get new board members as well.

The 2010 Leadership NOW! Class – made up of young professionals 22 to 32 – decided to help Urban Peak secure its bikes at its teen homeless shelter.

“The team didn’t just get a fence for the bikes, and Urban Peak would have been happy with just that much,” Saksa said. “Instead, they raised $15,000 and bought a huge conex trailer. They remodeled it, leaving space for bikes and shelves for helmets. It was a great thing.”

And two of the members of that team went on to become board members for Urban Peak.

The Salvation Army’s community center on Yuma Rd. also got some special treatment. Leadership Pikes Peak’s women’s class, which is geared toward lower income women. The group painted, cleaned carpets, organized and secured contractors for building projects, Saksa said.

But one group’s project could have cost a Colorado Springs nonprofit hundreds of thousands of dollars for a new name, new logo and new marketing plan. Instead, the LLP group did it for free.

Early Connections, once the Colorado Springs Child Nursery Centers, is more than 100 years old, and its board felt that it needed a new identity.

“We just weren’t resonating with the younger families,” said Diane Price, executive director. “We are more than just day care, there’s an early learning component, but people didn’t know that.”

Despite the group’s longevity in the Springs, few people realized what they did. The young professionals class at Leadership Pikes Peak changed all that.

“They were bright, they were energetic,” she said. “They spent a lot of time getting to know us – and we couldn’t be more pleased with the results.”

The results were more than just a new name that better reflects their mission, she said. The group stays in contact, helping spread Early Connection’s marketing message.

“Really, it’s been great to have new ideas come in,” she said. “We are excited about the job, we’re passionate about it. But we’ve been doing it for a long time, and there was a little bit of, ‘we’ve always done it this way.’ But this group really brought in some change – it’s been good for us.”

Price said nonprofits interested in having Leadership Pikes Peak classes take on one of their projects should definitely do it.

“But they have to be ready for change,” she said. “Be open to new ideas. You have to step out, take some risks. We didn’t know what we would get; we didn’t know what approach they would take. But it worked out very well for us.”

Saksa point out that not every group’s project will make the cut. Six projects will be selected this fall, and two more next winter. And projects for the young professionals’ group have a shorter timeline for completion.

“It can’t be a ‘done in a day’ kind of project,” she said. “It needs to be big enough to really engage a group of 10 or 12 people – and those people might come from business, nonprofit or the public sector. It needs to use their skills.”

The idea needs to be well thought out, with a clearly defined goal, and should not be primary fund-raisers.

“Every nonprofit would like a fundraiser,” she said. “And while it can be an element of the project, it can’t be the entire goal.”

Send project ideas to Saksa at susan@leadershippikespeak.org. Include name, contact, email and a one-page project idea or issue.

“This is a great opportunity,” Price said. “I’d absolutely encourage everyone to take advantage of it.”