Historic Germantown, the 30-year-old nonprofit that protects and promotes the Northwest Philadelphia neighborhood’s historic sites, is a finalist for the Phoenix-based Lodestar Foundation’s Collaboration Prize, a national contest for organizations that have executed successful strategic collaborations.
The prize is a big deal, and not only because Historic Germantown stands to win an unrestricted $150,000 on top of the $10,000 it’s already been awarded for being a finalist: It’s a sign the organization is committed to innovative resource sharing and long-term sustainability.
Though the recognition is for Historic Germantown’s “merger,” Executive Director Trapeta Mayson said the organizational shift in question was technically a “management agreement.”
Back in 2012, Historic Germantown became the umbrella organization overseeing Germantown Historical Society, which was having some financial and leadership troubles at the time, as well as 14 local historic sites — including the Stenton, Johnson and Wyck houses — which each have their own governing bodies and 501(c)3s.
“It was really important to ensure the continued presence of the historic sites in Germantown, and it also merges the strengths of all the organizations,” Mayson said. “Germantown Historical Society has an archived collection that is really essential to Germantown and the Northwest, and those things would have been in jeopardy without the merger.”
The resulting “consortium” (the creation of which was funded by the Barra Foundation and Pew) allowed the organizations to create a joint strategic mission — and allowed Historic Germantown to hire its first full-time executive director, which further enhanced its capacity to fundraise. Over an eight-year period, a collective $2 million has been invested into the 16 nonprofits under the Historic Germantown umbrella, according to Mayson.
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A site visit from Lodestar is planned for March 15, and Mayson plans to convene a diverse group of stakeholders — current and former Historic Germantown employees, community members, funders (including representatives from the Barra Foundation) — to show that its consortium is a collective front committed to the betterment of its neighborhood.
Mayson said the $10,000 Historic Germantown has already won will support its regular programming, including its annual Germantown Festival and children’s concert. If she finds out in April that it’s won the $150,000, though, the executive director plans to hire a part-time development director and throw some cash into its Sustaining Our Sites fund, which supports the maintenance of its 14 historic sites.
“These are really tight times for nonprofit organizations and ours in particular,” she said, referring to the possible elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, “and it’s a struggle to keep the mission alive and keep up with the costs.
“We have to be innovative. We have to connect with our supporters. We can’t do the same old, same old. We have to be part of the larger conversation.”-30-
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