For 50 years the Regional Foundation Library (RFL) has served the Central Texas nonprofit community by connecting nonprofit organizations with grant-makers and philanthropists. But at 50, the RFL is not resting on its laurels. Director Ellen Moutos-Lee along with staff member Julie Gutowski have taken steps to become more involved with the community through workshops at nonprofit organizations and through social media like Facebook and Twitter.
Regional Foundation Library Director Ellen Moutos-Lee (right) helps a community member who wants to start a new nonprofit.
The two recently surveyed local nonprofits to learn more about their needs. At the top of the list: many nonprofit volunteers hold regular jobs and would love to be able to visit the RFL more often, but the library’s weekday 8-5 hours make that difficult. So, Moutos-Lee is looking at ways to accommodate their needs.
The library began as the dream of Dr. Robert L. Sutherland, the first president of the Hogg Foundation of Mental Health, which is an administrative unit of The University of Texas at Austin. He recognized the critical importance of providing information and facilitating communication between those seeking funding and the growing number of grant-makers and philanthropists in Texas. In 2008, the RFL became part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, moving from the offices of the Hogg Foundation to the Community Engagement Center on E. 11th St.
“Our long history makes us unique,” said Moutos-Lee. “We’ve kept an extensive archive of foundation materials,” noting that LBJ School of Public Affairs students often use the materials when conducting research about the history of philanthropy and other issues related to philanthropy. “Plus, our one-on-one consultations are very thorough.”
Renee Nelms, development director for Special Olympics Texas, would concur. “The RFL is critical in the fund raising success of my organization’s grants budget. There is no other source for the information I am able to access there and on the database,” said Nelms. “But it’s so much more than just getting online and looking something up. I’ve also seen the value of the RFL for other organizations while I’m there working on my projects. In one afternoon I observed a small, new nonprofit in consultation with RFL staff about strategic planning and fund raising, and then an individual grant writer getting feedback on his proposal – all while I was researching hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funding for a large, statewide program.”