Academy for Grassroots Organizations (AcademyGO) has been providing resources to help strengthen Riverside and San Bernardino nonprofit organizations since 1998. What started as a small lunch group of local leaders grew into a network of hundreds of community organizations that support a wide range of community needs.

AcademyGO’s mission is focused on assisting smaller, on-the-ground nonprofits and ensuring that they have the resources to build capacity. Through locally-led training workshops, nonprofit resources and networking, the organization has helped nonprofits grow their ability to assist those experiencing homelessness, help low-income families, advocate for children, provide veterans services and many other community needs.

AcademyGO provides a 9-day Fundraising Academy that provides participants the tools they need to be proficient fundraisers and help their nonprofits succeed. The organization’s 4-day Grantwriting Academy teaches nonprofit professionals the skills they need to write successful grants.

In addition, members of AcademyGO can attend IE Resource Network Convenings where they meet with peers, exchange ideas, learn about funding opportunities and learn best practices for nonprofits.

It is often this opportunity to connect with other nonprofit organizations and create partnership that members of AcademyGO find the most valuable, Debbie Cannon, the organization’s Executive Director said.

“When we ask members what they like the most about Academy, the prevailing answer is that we create a sense of community,” Cannon said. “People end up participating and sharing their knowledge. So many times, they start collaborating and I love that.”

The organization shares new grant opportunities, job postings and resources through the website it manages, During the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization was able to help organizations connect to resources and help each other. If a nonprofit had a truckload of hand sanitizer to share with services organizations working directly with the public, AcademyGO would spread the word through its network to help it get to those in need.

AcademyGO was well-poised to serve its members virtually during the pandemic. The organization provided two virtual Grantwriting Academies. The organization was also able to connect with and serve more of the nonprofit community than normal through a virtual platform and to help bring money to nonprofits when they were struggling.

“It was amazing the way nonprofits, even the small ones, worked together during the pandemic,” Cannon said. “Even if they didn’t get the funding, they figured out how to get the job done.”

Through a partnership with Candid, the organization was also able to offer access to the subscription-based Foundation Center Directory to 2,060 members for free. This web-based platform houses the most up-to-date information available on funders, their giving history and guidelines for grants across the nation.

Recently, AcademyGo received a grant from the Community Impact Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. This grant will support the organization in its efforts to prioritize training and networking with underrepresented communities. In 2021, 64% of the leaders the organization served were Black, Indigenous or people of color. By assisting these nonprofits, AcademyGO hopes to help build stronger communities.

Individuals working for nonprofits or planning a nonprofit career can become a member of AcademyGo by visiting their website and filling out an application. Memberships start at $50 and include event discounts and access to free resources, trainings and workshops.

Cannon hopes that more local nonprofits will discover AcademyGO and take advantage of all the organization offers.

“We wish more of the community understood the impact that we have,” Cannon said. “AcademyGO has helped transform practitioner and leader trajectories to raise more than $500 million for their nonprofits and the hundreds of thousands of people they serve.”

This article originally appeared in the Press Enterprise, August 2022.

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