Franklin Area Nonprofit Network (FANN) Kicks Off
By J.D. O’Gara
Did you know that over 100 nonprofit organizations are based in the town of Franklin, with even more nonprofits in the greater community serving the town? Some of them, in fact, serve similar purposes and might be able to streamline their budgets and services if they could collaborate. The newly-established Franklin Area Nonprofit Network (FANN), created by Steve Sherlock, of Franklin Matters, Franklin resident Bo Kinney and Pete Fasciano, of Franklin TV, aims to foster connections between nonprofits and create a “cookbook” of best practices for these groups.
Bo Kinney, a Franklin resident for 36 years, retired last September after 30 years with the Army at Natick labs. After his cousin on the North Shore did some work to help elders, Kinney started researching what organizations support seniors in his own town.
“Maggie, at the Senior Center, put me in touch with a half a dozen people, and I came away with an observation that they all have a lot in common,” says Kinney, who also serves on the board for the nonprofit Ben Speaks. After meeting with Rep. Jeff Roy at his monthly senior hours, Kinney concluded, “As it turns out, nonprofits are a lot like the government. Everyone is working really hard trying to solve their problems in their own little silos. The real bang for the buck will be when those silos start working together and collaborating. You have a problem – there’s always someone who’s had the same problem.”
Turns out, the problem for which Kinney aimed to find a solution was already being tackled by Steve Sherlock and Pete Fasciano. “Steve told me this offline, he’s been trying to do this for a couple years now, working with Pete,” says Kinney. “These guys already had a lot of the data, and Steve already had a name, FANN.”
“More people should be aware of everyone else around the table,” says Sherlock. “You’re not alone in this.” Sherlock, in FANN’s introductory meeting, stressed using the new network for referrals among nonprofits. “You can do within your scope, but maybe not do everything the person is looking for,” says Sherlock. “This directory can help us to help you. You’ll be able to network with each other and figure out how best to do that. You’re all here servicing some aspect of the community.”
“What we hope is we can create some type of template about the kinds of information you need to keep on-hand, how it is you need to cycle it and what your month might look like if you’re the volunteer,” says Fasciano. “We can offer some suggestions based on what we’re seeing on our end, an annual plan, or whatever helps them out.”
While the initial Zoom meeting of FANN, at the end of March, introduced FANN to a number of local nonprofits, subsequent meetings will establish introductions between groups. Later, FANN creators envision “action” pieces for the nonprofits. Fasciano, for example, at press time, was working on a “Media 101” action, that would simplify the process of getting announcements out to media. Other action items that have arisen out of conversations with nonprofits might include establishing best business practices or creating a mission statement, “every business process you need in order to get your job done,” says Kinney, who envisions generic templates boiling down processes for nonprofits.
Sherlock says nonprofits can learn from each other. He recently connected a family coordinating the annual Franklin Food Pantry’s Turkey Trot with HMEA, so they could share best practices in putting together a 5K, which HMEA has done for 20 years. FANN will facilitate more of these connections.
FANN also aims to reduce redundancy in the efforts of several local nonprofits, such as the Franklin Food Pantry. With a little coordination, different groups that aim to help the food pantry could organize in a way that would benefit the nonprofit the most.