UNCW grad student expanding program to help non-profits

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WILMINGTON — Creating a startup business from nothing is a daunting prospect; creating a nonprofit business is even more difficult.

Navigating the complicated rules of incorporating, learning the language of grant applications and figuring out how to survive in a world where even successful for-profit business do not always survive — these are the challenges that face a new nonprofit.

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Nonprofit Advisor In-Residence David Morrison, at UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

But University of North Carolina at Wilmington graduate student David Morrison is hoping to help.

Morrison, the nonprofit advisor in-residence at UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), is expanding the CIE’s mission from helping for-profit businesses to include nonprofits. He focuses on nurturing nonprofits through the difficult early years of operation.

Once they make it through the first five years, Morrison said, he will direct them to UNCW’s Quality Enhancement for Nonprofit Organizations (QENO).

“QENO can take them the rest of the way, help them expand or whatever they need,” he said.

In the past year, Morrision and the CIE have helped as many as 20 nonprofits.

“Mostly we start with one-on-one consultations, the first meeting is usually about an hour,” he said. “It’s hard to say ‘this is the prescribed way to go about it.’ It depends a great deal on where the organization is and what kind of help they need. The first couple of meetings are free. After that, we arrange for meeting through the center.”

Sometimes clients will need help for years to come, some clients just need some help getting started.

“A lot of people have done just that,” Morrison said. “They come in with an idea, and maybe we just help them figure out what’s next. Some people only come in only that one time, because they only need to come in one time.”

The center’s partners – including TekMountain and BBT – are mainly providing funding to the center, largely for staff and to help organize classes and lecture (a list of CIE’s upcoming events is available online, most discounted or free for CIE members).

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CIE’s presentation room, which will host a wide variety of lectures this coming year.

However, Morrison said “they can definitely discuss grant opportunities with me. And we’re planning on adding classes on grant writing, because that can be a very difficult process to handle on your own.”

Morrison, who is pursuing a master of public administration degree with a concentration in nonprofit management, said “learning grant writing was incredibly beneficial to me.”

Morrison said difficulties, like navigating grant applications, are part of what attracted him to educating nonprofit startups.

“I’ve had to start from pretty much nothing, learning about this, and I just want to make sure these organizations can overcome the challenges and grow,” Morrison said. “The ideation of a nonprofit, it’s an interesting time to be in the field, because we don’t know where it’s heading. I never know what day-to-day kinds of questions I’ll be asked or what an organization will be looking for. It’s what drives me and keeps me on my toes. I never know what will be next.”

Morrison, who lives with cerebral palsy, also has a personal reason for his work with nonprofits:

“For me it goes back to when I was a child. I had a lot of people surrounding me, helping me and making sure I had what I needed to be successful. And this is my way of giving back, in spirit, to the people who helped me, and the people who need help in being successful today,” he said. “People who are trying to protect and nurture the film industry, or the environment, or whatever they’re passionate about.”

The CIE’s nonprofit wing is actively looking for nonprofits to work with. It is located at 803 S. College Rd., Suite G. Interested parties should contact the center at (910)-962- 2206 or email cie@uncw.edu.

Morrison added parting words to prospective clients: “If you have an idea that you’re really passionate about, just roll with it, and see where it takes you.”