GOOD NEWS: Local nonprofit receives surprise payment from Midland Inspires

The Midland Inspire Board of Directors consists of, from left: Teri Pender, Treasurer; Becky Lindemood, director; Dianne Williams, Director; Cheryl Mertz, secretary; Julie Z. Edwards, director; Naomi Paredes, director; Jonna Smoot, Chair of the Board; and Lisa Fielder, CEO and Co-Founder. (Courtesy picture)

MIDLAND On September 6, the Midland Inspires non-profit organization’s board of directors voted unanimously to donate the organization’s remaining assets to local non-profit Fix’s fundraising campaign. West Texas. The total amount was $15,292.18.

Fix West Texas is a Midland-based animal services organization dedicated to preventing unwanted litters, maintaining pet health, and reducing community shelter and euthanasia rates. They provide low-cost neutering, neutering, and preventative medical services in Midland and several West Texas counties. Fix West Texas was a finalist in the 2022 Midland Inspires grant round and was introduced to the women’s group in May.

Midland Inspires, a self-funded women-only philanthropy, was founded in 2019 by Brenda Harrison and Lisa Fielder. Through their efforts, those involved with Midland Inspires have grown to better understand the concept of responsible, lifelong philanthropy in the quest to better Midland.

The group has had initial success with membership development, fund development, and philanthropic education: their members have granted $100,000 to Family Promise of Midland in 2021 and $145,000 to Be the Change in 2022. However, they struggled to recruit volunteers to support the organization, and the Midland Inspires board voted in June of that year to cease operations.

“We are all very sad to be disbanding Midland Inspires, but – after making this difficult decision – we were determined to do it the right way,” said board chair Jonna Smoot. “We notified our members and the community, paid all bills, filed all paperwork, and our final task was to disburse our remaining funds in accordance with Texas law. We share great respect for the compassionate work of Fix West Texas and are thrilled to have such a worthy cause to support.

Ending the story of Midland Inspires with the mere disbanding of it, is a story with a lot of untold things. The Board of Directors consisted of the following individuals: Jonna Smoot, Chair of the Board; Teri Pender, Treasurer; Cheryl Mertz, Secretary, Julie Z. Edwards, Director, Becky Lindemood, Director, Naomi Paredes, Director and Dianne Williams, Director, with Lisa Fielder as Executive Director. There were no paid positions at Midland Inspires during his tenure. It should be noted that Lisa Fielder had been a member of the Board of Trustees, but resigned to take the unpaid post of Executive Director leading to and for the second year scholarship cycle.

The brief timeline for Midland Inspires is as follows:

  • Summer 2020 – July 12, 2021: Member outreach and recruitment efforts have begun with total membership well in excess of the planned 100 members.
  • July 12, 2021 was the night the Year 1 $100,000 scholarship recipient was selected. Congratulations again to Family Promise of Midland. Since then, Cheryl Mertz, our Board Secretary has worked closely with them and Tom Miller as the Board’s First Year Community Liaison.
  • Midland Inspires was released at Celebration of the Arts (COA), July 16-18. The ACO, also a non-profit, was there to share information with the community at large to increase both membership and the volunteer base.
  • Discovery Night, September 21, 2021, was when former Midland Inspires President Ellen K. Ramsey held her first ZOOM meeting. It was the night that made Midland Inspires a Year 2 finalist. MI members came, listened and narrowed down the categories of award recipients to three of the following five:

The scholarship categories were presented for consideration at the Discovery Night meeting as follows: Midland’s Challenges, 2022, presented by Tracee Bentley – President and CEO, Permian Strategic Partnership; Education and Literacy, presented by John Trischitti – Executive Director, Literacy Coalition; Mental Health, presented by Kristi Edwards – CEO, Centers for Children and Families; Public/Societal Benefit, presented by Laurie Johnson – Executive Director, Nonprofit Management Center, and finally COVID 19 Recovery, presented by Grant Billingsley – Executive Director, Scharbauer Foundation.

  • Midland Inspires hosted an online training on October 26, 2021 and November 30, 2021, which were educational workshops designed to help nonprofits file their best grant application possible.
  • Board Outreach with a Board Briefing, December 2, 2021. The evening included the meeting of new board members and then resulted in the election of two board members: Becky Lindemood and Naomi Paredes.
  • The Board Christmas Mixer on December 6, 2021, guests included Year One Community Partner and Family Promise of Midland. Each of the participants in the mix brought gifts to the guest members of Family Promise of Midland to help them start their Christmas season.
  • Board orientation workshop on February 2.
  • Gathering of new members, February 24.
  • Throughout this time, MI has continued to streamline the entire grant review process.
  • A board retreat was held on April 3.
  • Monthly board meetings.
  • During the year, MI also managed to deliver a few big projects, including: a completely updated new website that included a member portal, videos – and finally, as mentioned, a completely redesigned grant, revised and revitalized. The review process was born.
  • According to the Year 2 grant review process, there were: 17 nonprofits that began the grant application process and from there, 14 nonprofits submitted requests; 13 were complete and able to go forward for review. Of the 13 that were considered, they fell into the following categories: one for academic literacy, four for mental health and eight for public good.
  • MI’s Grant Review Committees (GRCs) met three times to review submitted applications: February 13, March 20, and April 18.
  • The RCMP conducted six site visits to several of the applicant organizations. At that time, the second-year finalists were narrowed down to the following organizations: Be The Change; Fix West Texas and The Literacy Coalition of the Permian Basin.
  • On May 23, 2022, after a simple majority vote of Year Two members, the winner of the $145,000 scholarship was announced as: Be The Change.
  • As previously mentioned, the board voted in June 2022 to make the difficult decision to cease operations before any year in which three funds were cashed.
  • The Midland Inspires Board of Directors has filed the appropriate paperwork with the state to dissolve and has requested October 22 as the final dissolution date.

About Matthew R. Dailey

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