Behind the scenes with A local nonprofit champion

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photo by marie pham

As a teenager, Jeanne Kojis lived in Joliet, Illinois. “The town I grew up in,” she said, “was labeled ‘low income stagnant.’” It was there that she began on a path of community activism. She served on her first board of directors when she was 16, for a Chicago organization that encompassed a drug hotline and free store, and that participated in the very first Earth Day.

She moved west with her husband in 1984, and has raised three children in Vancouver. She became active in her children’s schools and attended the Portland State University Institute for Nonprofit Management program in the ‘90s.

Kojis has been the executive director of the Nonprofit Network Southwest Washington since it separated from the Divine Consign furniture store in 2008. Despite her title, Kojis takes a very behind-the-scenes approach, reflecting, “I feel like I support the people who do the tough stuff, who are on the frontlines to make change.”

NPN provides general education, training and social opportunities to leaders and staff of nonprofits in Southwest Washington. She said, “We connect nonprofits to information and resources.”

NPN also connects regular people to nonprofits in order to generate support for them and their individual causes. One way NPN does this is through the “Giving Circle,” which is a group of people each year who give $250 or more to attend a monthly series of presentations by local nonprofits. At the end of each year, the group offers grants to the nonprofits of their choice. Each member gets one vote, and the group gives out about $10,000 each year.

NPN also sponsors bus tours of various nonprofits each year. This year, there will be a tour on the theme of early childhood and one on the environment, and likely one on vulnerable youth.

Community Cares Tours

From the Nonprofit Network: Come on a compelling half-day tour to learn more about local issues, and how you might help. We will begin with a 30,000 foot perspective from a local expert, then visit three or four distinctly different programs — all addressing a critical community topic. These are not fundraising events, but tours to deepen your understanding of an issue facing our neighbors, and how community organizations are responding. The first tour in 2013 will be focused on early childhood and will feature Support for Early Learning and Families, Innovative Services NW and Educational Opportunities for Children & Families. The cost of the tour is $25 per person. Registration is limited, and dates are to be determined.

“I feel like I support the people who do the tough stuff, who are on the front lines to make change.”

– Jeanne Kojis

Nonprofit Network Southwest Washington



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