Non-Profits Take The Fast Track In Getting To Know Each Other

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- It's one of the latest crazes in the dating world. Now the idea of speed dating has been tweaked to give South Mississippi charities a chance to get to know one another better. Dozens of charities were in Gulfport on Tuesday for "Speed Networking For Non-Profits."

First came the introduction. Then after a little one-on-one conversation, it was time to switch partners and do it all again. Before long, the members of 30 non-profits organizations, who had arrived as strangers, were so well acquainted that some were talking about potential partnerships.

"We don't know each other," said Gulf Coast Community Foundation director Janet Smith. "We don't know anything about what the organizations do and if we can start more communication, I think it will emphasize what we're doing."

Karon Engel of the Mississippi Gulf Coast YMCA agreed.

"I think this was a great experience. I think it should be done more often, because I had the opportunity to meet a lot of other non-profit organizations."

Speed Networking For Non-Profits is the brain child of the Mississippi Center For Non-Profits as a way to promote more cooperation and less duplication in social services.

Director Mark McCrary said, "In the speed networking, one non-profit says, 'Hey, this is a great opportunity to work with another non-profit.' What we can do is maximize resources and get more of the job done."

Pooling resources is more important these days. Some non-profits say a weakening economy is having an impact on the bottom line.

"You'll see the trends that our giving is down in a lot of areas," said John Biggs of Camp Victor in Ocean Springs. "The resources are stretched a little further. There's more people having trouble making ends meet with food and rent. "

"In order to do a better job, we need with the resources we have, we really need to work together much closer than we have in the past."

Officials say another potential benefits to speed networking is that now non-profits can spread the word when one hears about grants and other opportunities.