The Ally: October 2020 – Cyndy Baggett

Cyndy Baggett
VP of Development & Marketing
Feeding the Gulf Coast


My husband was the breadwinner, and he passed away last July. He had a heart attack. He wasn’t even 50. It has been rough working through the grief, and I am not making enough money to pay bills and buy food. That is why I have been waiting in line for hours for food from Feeding the Gulf Coast. I have three kids aged seven, nine, and thirteen. I am from Oregon and don’t have family here or much support. I am not on welfare or food stamps. I probably should be, but I have never had to do that before. A friend is letting us rent a room, or we would be homeless. I am between jobs, but I have been doing odd jobs and yard work in the neighborhood. It is time to figure out where we go from here. I want to get back on my feet and own my own home.”

At Feeding the Gulf Coast, we hear heartbreaking stories like this every day from right here within our community, where one in five individuals, including one in three children, is food insecure. Hunger along the central Gulf Coast has exploded since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, resulting in an increase of more than 40% of individuals and families who are food insecure. This equates to nearly 480,000 individuals who will struggle to put food on their tables in 2020 and beyond. These are seniors living on fixed incomes, children without healthy food to eat outside of school, and working families struggling to make ends meet.

Feeding the Gulf Coast serves a 24-county area spanning south Mississippi, south Alabama, and Florida’s panhandle. Our service area is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of hunger and includes high-risk populations, including seniors, rural and underserved communities, and those with chronic health diseases.

In addition to the wave of people experiencing food insecurity for the first time and those already in need within our service area, this unprecedented crisis has compounded economic strain with a tremendous surge in families needing food assistance right now. In response to the need, the food bank has distributed over 19.2 million meals, a 43% increase in meals for this time of year.

To join our local fight against hunger and learn how to help solve hunger in our community, visit

The Ally: October 2020 – Mike Ward

Mike Ward
MS Alliance


As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, the State of Mississippi has recently implemented The Community Foundations COVID-19 Grant Program.

Administered by the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), the seven Mississippi community foundations that comprise the Alliance’s Community Foundation Network are tasked with providing a total of $8 million in grants to Mississippi’s nonprofits and food pantries.  Grants of up to $4,000.00 are available to reimburse eligible nonprofit entities and food pantries for pandemic-related expenses incurred from March 1, 2020, through December 30, 2020. Grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Each application will be reviewed by the community foundation serving the county where a nonprofit entity or food pantry’s primary office is located.

The Alliance’s Community Foundation Network has created an online application portal,, through which all applications must be submitted.  Additional information about eligible grantees and eligible expenditures is available through this portal.  Applicants must create an account, complete an eligibility quiz and file requests for reimbursement by 5:00 p.m. on December 15, 2020.  In general, only one application per organization is allowed. Nonprofits operating multiple programs that include a food pantry or organizations operating multiple food pantries that serve different geographic areas and populations may be able to file more than one application.

For more information, see, or contact the community foundation serving the county in which your organization is located.

The Ally: October 2020 – Rene’ Davis

Rene’ Davis
Journalistics & D’Zigns


Since 1977, the Gulf Coast Women’s Center for Nonviolence has provided services to those impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, or homicide to all those affected. As its 40th anniversary approached, many people were still unaware of the full scope of its services–or that it offered those services to men and women.

The Center thus began a multifaceted rebranding campaign with an eye toward more explicitly portraying the inclusion and diversity which had always been part of its programming.  The first change was dropping “Women’s” from its name to become “Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence.”

The Center’s brochures, social media accounts, informational cards, and display banners were all redesigned to feature updated, gender-neutral language and photos representing the full spectrum of gender, race, religion, age, orientation, and ability.  Its website is being reimagined and redeveloped to be helpful and inviting to anyone seeking services and will be unveiled soon.  In conjunction with ongoing cultural diversity training, in-house and community surveys provide a framework for constant evaluation and improvement in sensitively and effectively serving all populations.

Like all organizations, the Center has experienced novel challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.  GCCFN has kept both of its domestic violence shelter locations open and has continued all its client services throughout the pandemic, incorporating virtual options where possible.

Historically, intimate partner violence is known to increase during times of economic hardship or emotional stress–such as after hurricanes or during the holiday season–so we can predict that the COVID crisis will increase incidents of domestic violence and sexual assault.  However, while victims are isolated at home with their abusers, it can be challenging to find a safe opportunity to escape or even reach out for help.  While national DV hotlines have experienced a 9% increase in calls compared to 2019, it may be quite some time before we can fully understand the total impact of the pandemic here on the Gulf Coast.

Over the coming months, as businesses reopen and families become less isolated, victims may find it easier to call for help–and the Center will be here to answer the call and offer support.

The Ally: October 2020 – Paul Guichet

Paul Guichet

Chief Operating Officer & Executive Director

Gulf Coast Community Foundation


Hurricane season brings to mind the role of philanthropies and nonprofits in preparation, response, and recovery. As an emergency support function for the Harrison County Emergency Management Agency, the Long-Term Recovery Committee (“LTRC”) is responsible for providing organizational structure and guidance for volunteer and donation management for Harrison County. When any catastrophe strikes, the LRTC supports local jurisdiction policies and procedures in addressing a community’s needs and assessing the condition of impacted areas. While comprehensive in nature, the committee’s strategies are continuously revised as unforeseen potential issues arise.

The LTRC is a collaboration between the Gulf Coast Community Foundation (“GCCF”) and United Way of South Mississippi (“UWSM”). The committee, comprised of 9 local business and community leaders, functions by coordinating with Harrison County Emergency Management Agency (EMA). The team coordinates all volunteers, donations, and services coming into Harrison County to support the Emergency Operations Center and Field Operations.

Essential to the LRTC’s operation are communications in 3 phases: Preparedness Actions, Response Actions, and Recovery Actions. Each phase involves specific skills and knowledge and effective collaboration with supporting agencies at the local, county, state, and federal levels. The coordination of all these agencies is essential to provide seamless service delivery to those affected by the disaster.

The Gulf Coast Volunteer HUB, part of the Mississippi Hub Network, plays a vital role in the LRTC’s communications. The Gulf Coast Volunteer HUB’s “Get Connected” platform provides additional organizational, training, and technical capacity in coordinating volunteers and donations coming into Harrison County.

Our communities will be well-positioned through effective planning, resource management, and teamwork when the next catastrophic event occurs.

The Ally: September 2020 – Sammy Moon

Sammy Moon
The MS Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy

Note from the Executive Director

There is no question that we are all being challenged in ways we could never have imagined. With political divisiveness, social unrest, economic challenges, education disruptions, the COVID-19 global pandemic, out-of-control fires in the West, and hurricanes,  what we assumed to be routine and somewhat predictable has been turned upside down and inside-out.  Stress levels and anxiety are the new daily normal.

I say all this to acknowledge that we ALL feel overwhelmed and anxious, not only when we deal with our current daily activities, but also when we think about what the future may bring.  These feelings are entirely normal, and they are shared by others in our state and nation.

When we acknowledge these feelings and realize they are indeed normal, we become even more committed to doing what we do best, which is to reach out and help our fellow citizens when their needs and challenges are greater than ever!  Because we are engaged in nonprofit and philanthropic work, we are called on to “up our game” during times like these. We all have done that.  Please know The Alliance recognizes, appreciates, and celebrates the incredibly good work being done throughout the state!

This edition of The Ally is focused on the benefits associated with being a member of The Alliance.  Our job is to provide training, technical assistance, consulting, and other services and products to help you be successful.  In addition to these regular Alliance offerings, we are committed to identifying other unique benefits and opportunities to strengthen your efforts.  These “benefits of membership” are made available to all Alliance members.

We will continue to seek out and enhance the member benefits, and I encourage you to check out our website – – and review the available services.  If you have questions or suggestions, please contact Maribeth Kitchings at

Continue to stay safe, and thanks for doing what you do best – caring for others!  We appreciate you.

Sammy Moon
Executive Director

The Ally: September 2020 – Ellen Collins

Ellen Collins
The MS Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy

An Inclusive Approach

The Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy grew out of the vision that nonprofits and philanthropy working together can drastically improve the lives of the people and communities of Mississippi.  At the center of this vision are the core values that drive our approach.  These include diversity, inclusion, transparency, innovation, collaboration, use of best practices, and a focus on quality.

However, on May 25, 2020, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis brought to our consciousness that merely stating commitments to diversity and inclusion is not enough. We, the Alliance Board and staff, must do more so that we demonstrate these values with the appropriate action.  Diversity, inclusion, and racial equity must be integrated into our operations.  We must be willing to examine our own internal culture and practices and hold ourselves accountable for making the necessary changes that will ultimately move the work of the Alliance and our members forward.

Our first step was to issue a public commitment to address diversity, equity, and inclusion intentionally and strategically (click here to read the statement). The next step was to follow up that statement with concrete and sustainable short and long-term action steps and goals. Examining our value statement on diversity, equity, and inclusion and aligning it with measurable indicators and benchmarks will enable us to track changes over time.  We will also perform an internal equity audit to assess our operating policies and procedures.  This assessment will review our procurement of vendors and contracts, recruitment and hiring policies, personnel policies, member dues structure, training costs, and review of our tools and curriculums.  We want to “walk the talk” that we speak and not make empty promises.

Of course, we cannot do this work alone.  We will look to you, our members and partners in this effort, to hold us accountable to these goals.  We ask that you support us and each other as we work to better ourselves and our understanding of what it really means to apply a racial equity lens to our work and to examine negative experiences associated with gender, class, and other prejudices.  We will seek your input as we further define our short and long-term goals.  Our collective knowledge and experience will help to transform our communities and, thus, our state. We can create a society where everyone has access to opportunities.   This is our moment; let us not waste it.

The Ally: September 2020 – Sharolyn Smith

Sharolyn Smith
CEO and Founder
JournaLISTics & D’Zigns

The Alliance as an Essential Partner

After an accounting career in the private business, government, entrepreneurship and nonprofit sectors for more than four decades, I started to think about what I could do next.  The decision was easy because I am passionate about working with nonprofits and volunteers.

As a volunteer, I started with an interest in service organizations and advanced through many training programs, mainly with The Alliance (formerly MS Center for Nonprofits).  I continued to connect with them, as an associate member, for the meaningful community opportunities and exceptional services.  The personal and professional experiences and engagements that I have been afforded remain life-changing and ever-evolving.

My membership in The MS Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy (The Alliance) has been one of the most rewarding relationships in my journey in nonprofit, public service, and volunteering.  The involvement with “The Alliance” has been worthwhile in many ways.  The people I have met have been phenomenal and very resourceful when information is needed.  The training provided by The Alliance is affordable and empowering. The Alliance has given me the tools I need to be an effective partner in community engagement and nonprofit leadership.

It has been and will continue to be exciting to learn how our organizations are making a difference in the communities we serve. Now more than ever, nonprofit services are essential to the well-being of our communities and the world.

The Ally: September 2020 – Nancy Perret

Nancy B. Perret
MS Alliance for Nonprofits and Philanthropy

It’s All Connected!

The Alliance was formed with a bold intent to change the dialog and the dynamic between philanthropy and nonprofits – acknowledging that these two powerful forces for good are “two sides of the same coin.”  You’ll see that concept woven throughout the Alliance’s programming on an increasing basis, as we continue to grow.  When you “begin with the end in mind,” as Stephen Covey said, a robust framework can be established to achieve your goals.

So we began by re-framing the best practices that inform our work.  The Principles and Standards for Nonprofit and Philanthropy Excellence © have been updated to be the first in the nation to include best practice standards for both nonprofits and philanthropy.  In this update, two categories were added (public/private foundation standards and volunteer management), and other categories have been re-organized to reflect currently accepted best practice standards, including a greater emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the document.

Now, all training is directly linked to these standards. When you attend an Alliance-sponsored training, you’ll be told which of the Principles and Standards are being addressed. Our learning objectives are tied directly to these standards, with a focus on ensuring that you receive the information you need to increase proficiency in those stated standards.  In addition, training is increasingly being categorized based on the primary target audience (beginning concepts, more advanced topics, or aimed at more “seasoned professionals” – those of us who’ve been around for a while).  And whether you choose individual courses or a course series (such as the one being offered in partnership with Millsaps’ Advanced Applied Leadership Program), you can take your organization through the requirements for certification in our Excellence in Action program

There are two diagnostic tools (for organizations and individuals) available that provide self-guided help to resolve simple issues. They enable us to provide customized recommendations for specific training and other support (consultations, research tools, etc.) based on your unique needs.

We’re continuing to build a highly talented and diverse pool of expert trainers and consultants that provide standard and customized training as well as one-on-one consultation.  Other resources include  GuideStar and the Foundation Directory Online (both offered by Candid.) for your research. The Alliance provides internally-produced documents, such as the Philanthropic Giving in Mississippi 2019 report and more, available online.

Affinity groups provide opportunities for networking and exchange with organizations with similar goals.  You’ll be hearing more about expanded opportunities to join an affinity group in the coming months.

And our weekly webinar series and quarterly member meetings provide further opportunities for learning and networking.  These are held online to allow for this exchange, but with consideration for public health issues that remain a concern.

We are continuously developing new programs with your ever-changing needs in mind.  So keep reading The Ally and watch your inbox for exciting additions in the weeks and months ahead.

The Ally: September 2020 – Tammy Golden

Tammy Golden
Executive Director
Growing Up Knowing

The Benefits of Membership

To me, Membership with the MS Alliance means inspiration, connectedness, education, and community. As the new Executive Director for Growing Up Knowing, I knew I needed to step up my game regarding leadership skills and the day to day management of a nonprofit agency. I also needed to find “my people,” those folks with more and different experiences than mine, who also face similar struggles and challenges.

I had no idea when I began with Growing Up Knowing in January that just two months later, I would be packing up my office to work from home. All those meetings and luncheons to build relationships were put on hold. Our programming calendar was canceled. I had no idea what the rest of the spring or summer would look like.

Before the lockdown, I did have the opportunity to take advantage of a few in-person training classes with The Alliance. These were extremely beneficial, as they focused on grant writing and fundraising. Who knew that just a few short weeks after my last training, I would be home spending the bulk of my days writing LOIs and Grant Proposals? Thank goodness for the training I received at The Alliance! I continue to participate in training webinars and have found them extremely helpful.

One of the things I have appreciated the most is the relationship with other Nonprofit Warriors across the state. I made meaningful connections at the first Quarterly Meeting of 2020, putting faces to names and learning more about all that The Alliance has to offer. The Weekly Webinars during COVID have been a great place to hear from others doing good work and getting into “good trouble.” Membership with The Alliance, especially during the pandemic, has given me the feeling of community. Each Thursday, I can Zoom with folks who are doing the same thing I am: trying to continue their missions in this extraordinary time. Thinking outside the box and getting it done. It has not only helped me make critical professional connections but continues to inspire me daily.

The price of membership with The MS Alliance is so small compared to the benefits I have received. The Alliance understands the budget constraints of most nonprofits, and the discount pricing on training has allowed me to participate more than I would otherwise. The Alliance continues to offer support, education, and invaluable resources during these trying times. I can’t imagine trying to navigate 2020 without them!

The Ally: September 2020 – Dave Miller

Dave Miller
Program Director
MS Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy

We've Got a Program for That

Capacity building is a concept that is thrown around a lot in the nonprofit sector. The Alliance takes this idea very seriously. We live in an unprecedented time. At work, positions are shifting, strategic plans must be re-written, budgets are fluctuating, staff members are taking on new tasks, and organizations are being forced to adapt in ways they never anticipated. The Alliance is here to help.

We have worked tirelessly to ensure that any organization has access to the resources they need when they need it.

Need to learn how to create graphic designs? We’ve got training for that.

Need to develop your board? We’ve got a consultant for that.

Need to learn how to be a fundraiser? We’ve got a learning track for that.

Need to connect with other organizations in your sector? We’ve got a member event for that.

Need to learn about what is happening across the state? We’ve got a Weekly Webinar for that.

Need to make sure you are operating according to nationally recognized best practices? We’ve got a certification for that.

The impact of meaningful capacity building goes deeper than helping you learn a new skill; it is about ensuring you have all the tools you need to be successful so you can do the critical work to support Mississippians in need. When the tide that supports all nonprofits rises, all Mississippian’s boats lift. My job as the Program Director is to do everything I can to make that happen, and I have the perfect new program to illustrate this point.

Two months ago, we launched the Emerging Leaders: Fundraising Executives learning track, in partnership with the Association of Fundraising Professionals MS Chapter and Volunteer MS and Nonprofit Hub Network. This yearlong pilot program brings 16 diverse organizations and leaders from around the state together once a month for a day of learning. They are surrounded by and engaging with some of the strongest teachers and leaders in the state. Participants spend considerable time learning about what it takes to be a good leader, adapting to new technologies, networking, and a myriad of practical day-to-day skills. Additionally, they spend several months completing a long-term project in partnership with the Secretary of State’s office. Throughout the learning track, they earn nationally recognized Certified Fundraising Executive continuing education points.

When taken as a whole, this program will help ensure that many thousands of Mississippians, from across the state, are supported in unique and meaningful ways by organizations that are engaging in practices that ensure long-term sustainability. Every Mississippian deserves to live a happy, healthy, and productive life, and sometimes that means receiving assistance from and engaging with nonprofits. The Alliance is here to help to make that a possibility. I hope to see you in our training, events, Weekly Webinar, and learning tracks.