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Phoenix Foundation Urges Non-profits to Collaborate

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March 17, 2009

Phoenix, AZ – The merger of an Ohio Jewish Community Center with a YMCA shares the top prize in a contest sponsored by the Phoenix-based Lodestar Foundation. The competition's purpose is to recognize non-profit groups who get the most out of scarce dollars through efficiencies resulting from collaboration; it drew hundreds of entries. Lodestar chairman Jerry Hirsch says the "Y" and the Jewish center in Sylvania, Ohio, realized they could effectively serve their communities without each having to build a multi-million dollar facility.

"They merged their organization, but at the same time they still kept up their individual desires to maintain religious types of programming and instructions within the overall umbrella of the one organization."

Taking the ecumenical theme even further, Hirsch says, the combined Ohio organization is now reaching out to the Muslim community.

"They close off the swimming pool two or three mornings a week for Muslim women who wish to use those facilities and because of their religious beliefs need to have access to themselves."

The Foundation's aim is to seek "happiness through philanthropy." Hirsch says the Lodestar contest provides a wealth of ideas that will be shared to help the nation's million-plus non-profit agencies operate more effectively through cooperation.

"Each one of these 650 nominations included an extensive amount of information, and we wind up with this wonderful, we think unique, treasure trove of how to do it."

Hirsch says non-profits performing similar functions can typically increase efficiency by pursuing joint initiatives or by sharing offices or administrative services.

The other winner sharing the $250,000 prize in Lodestar's national competition was a trio of major Dallas museums that merged, saving more than a half million dollars in operating costs the first year and increasing contributions five-fold.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ