by Bethany Bradsher
In the corporate world, opportunities abound for training in team building, leadership and organizational skills, but too often the staff of nonprofits are hustling to run their ministries on their own with little support. Heart for ENC exists to provide a remedy for that problem by coming alongside local nonprofits and helping to boost their capacity.
Founded in 2015 by a group of Greenville businessmen who saw a need to strengthen this community’s outreach efforts by providing resources for local nonprofits, Heart for ENC serves a variety of agencies and ministries through training and development, connecting needs and resources and providing support services such as grant writing and financial audits. The organization’s mission, “To equip and empower nonprofit ministries, freeing them to transform our community for Christ,” has been lived out as more than 60 nonprofits throughout the east have gleaned benefits from Heart for ENC’s efforts.
“Nonprofit leaders are a wonderful group of individuals that have a passion for what they do and how they serve others, and they are so focused on their mission and purpose that often they don’t take the time or don’t realize where they need help,” said Sharon Justice, a member of the Heart For ENC Board and a faculty member in leadership development in the ECU College of Business. “I have seen firsthand how much of a blessing it has been to carve out space and provide resources, encouragement and training and development for these leaders.”
Sid Bradsher accepted the position as the first full-time director of Heart For ENC in January 2018 after working for 23 years in vocational ministry and three years in the business world, and that blend of experience has allowed him to help “ministry entrepreneurs” maximize their strengths and identify the areas where extra support and resources could allow them to more effectively fulfill their mission.
“I know how isolating it can feel being at the helm of a nonprofit organization,” Bradsher said. “In addition to the training and support we’re trying to provide we’re seeking to build relationships with and among nonprofit leaders to encourage them and lead them to form their own partnerships.”
The staff of the Carolina Pregnancy Center have been benefiting from Heart for ENC’s training and other services for several years, and executive director Laura Strabley said that every workshop she attends helps expand their ability to serve their clients and also helps her connect on a deeper level with both her own staff and people affiliated with nonprofits all over the region. Because Heart for ENC offers its workshops free of charge, CPC is able to take advantage of those opportunities locally and make the most of the money their donors give to benefit the center.
“It’s saved us precious nonprofit fundraising dollars,” Strabley said. “There is something about having an opportunity to learn with local leaders, because we are leading month by month, year by year with these other leaders. Besides gaining information for our organizational health we are growing in relationship with one another and networking more effectively with one another. I think that promotes a greater strength within our community.”
In addition to the group workshops, which cover topics like board development, strategic planning or fundraising, Heart for ENC meets with offers cost-free grant writing services, coaching and consulting for nonprofit directors and facilitation for area ministries looking to bring their own staff together for planning and encouragement. Bradsher and Justice, who is also has a consulting business called Justice Leadership, led a retreat for Strabley and her CPC staff last summer, and Strabley said that the time out of the office resulted in a more cohesive team and a better understanding of each individual’s strengths.
Heart for ENC has also had the opportunity to guide the formation of several new nonprofits, including Awaken Coffee, an initiative to open a coffee shop in Greenville that employs adults with special needs. Carol Preston, one of the cofounders of Awaken Coffee, said she has appreciated Bradsher’s willingness to pray, give advice, and point them toward resources and connections that can help turn Awaken Coffee into a robust, growing mission.
“He has been such an encouragement in a world that I know nothing about,” Preston said of Bradsher. “I don’t have much experience in the nonprofit arena and business arena; I’m just a girl who sees a need and is trying to fill it.”
Heart for ENC exists to remind visionaries like Preston that they aren’t alone, to provide a multifaceted support system that will allow them to fulfill their calling to serve people and strengthen the region in the process. “It’s been a real privilege to get to know all of the amazing people who are working for good in Eastern North Carolina,” Bradsher said. “If we can be part of helping them grow, it’s a win for us and certainly a win for the community at large.”
To learn more are Heart for ENC and to view their Resource Guide of local non-profits, visit HeartForENC.org