Private funding drives innovation for nonprofits
West Shore News

Private funding drives innovation for nonprofits

May 5, 2023 – West Shore Chairman Steven P. Rosenthal and Northeast Arc President and CEO Jo Ann Simon are in the news with a Letter to the Editor that appeared in the Boston Business Journal. The commentary is centered around how purpose, partnerships, and private funding are powerful drivers of nonprofits’ capacity to provide services, support communities, and improve lives.

Private funding drives innovation for nonprofits

To the editor:

We read the article titled, “As a recession looms, nonprofits prepare for difficult times” by Meera Raman with great interest. The article mentioned the possibility of a recession in 2023 and statistics from The Chronicle of Philanthropy that the number of individual donors giving to nonprofits was down 7.1% in 2022 from the previous year.

These are critical concerns, and one of the experts quoted in the article had two recommendations: One, nonprofits should have a rainy-day fund of at least three to six months of monthly expenses, and two, keep in constant conversation with supporters. We agree. Communicating with donors and perspective donors — especially those that have the desire and ability to give at a greater level — is incredibly important.  This vital financial support helps to fill in the gaps where public funding and smaller donations aren’t enough.

Just as important is that the nonprofits “walk the talk.” Donors want to see innovative programs in action and organizations that develop these programs see greater and more active participation while also building momentum to continue to create additional programs and services. For example, we at the Northeast Arc created the Changing Lives Fund to positively disrupt the way that disability services are delivered when the organization received its first $1 million donation in 2017. The fund also allows Northeast Arc to provide financial support to innovative ideas and programs. Among programs created by the Changing Lives Fund, which has grown as other donors see the impact Northeast Arc is making, include:

  • Arc Tank: A competition that seeks to fund innovative ideas that enhance the lives of people with intellectual disabilities and autism. Since its launch in 2017, Arc Tank has awarded over $850,000 to proposals that promise to break down barriers for people with disabilities who are too often marginalized, not included as equal participants in everyday life, and prevented from taking advantage of opportunities.
  • The Center for Linking Lives: This highly visible space in the Liberty Tree Mall is a vibrant community where individuals with disabilities reach their full potential while leading a fulfilling life alongside their peers. The Center includes parcels, a retail store offering products created by people with disabilities. The store provides a point-of-sale opportunity for these products and, like our Breaking Grounds Cafe in Peabody, serves as another training opportunity for people in Northeast Arc’s workforce development program.
  • Pathways to Opportunities: Our latest endeavor is a collaboration with Lynn Classical High School that will prepare students for careers in the human services field through paid internships, while also offering skill building and mentorship.   

Private funding is critical for innovation because it provides initial money to test ideas as proofs of concept. We hope that programs like the Center for Linking Lives and Pathways can be expanded across the commonwealth — and even the country. Without private donors, innovative projects like these would have been difficult to fund, but with their support we have a proof of concept to show to other organizations or funders.

The impact of private donors is just not limited to innovation, but also supports inclusive activities, such as the ones provided through Northeast Arc’s Recreation program. Despite consistently running a deficit, Northeast Arc keeps the costs affordable to participate so the program can be as accessible as possible. Post-pandemic there has been an increased need and desire for more community-based activities to combat the isolation many individuals with disabilities experienced during the pandemic. Individual donors have stepped up and subsidized these activities, ensuring that they can be offered to as many people as possible.

We hope that other donors and charitable foundations that want to see their money put to good use will seek out non-profits that are truly making a difference in the lives of the people they serve and support them by providing the funding and support that is critical for success.


Steven P. Rosenthal is chairman of West Shore, whose $1 million gift to the Northeast Arc in 2022 initially established the Changing Lives Fund and in 2022 made an additional $1 million gift to further innovation. Jo Ann Simons is President & CEO of Northeast Arc.

Original LTE: Boston Business Journal