FIRE Foundation awarded for best business practices

Founders, board members and staff gather for a picture with the plaque awarded to the FIRE Foundation. (Photo courtesy of the FIRE Foundation)

By Megan Marley

An area nonprofit dedicated to bringing resources for children with special needs to diocesan Catholic schools recently received a commendation for utilizing best business practices within their organization.

The FIRE Foundation received the 2018 Excellence in Nonprofit Leadership Award given by Support KC, a nonprofit organization that provides other nonprofits with business and development expertise, freeing them up to focus more on their missions.

According to the Support KC press release, three such awards were granted in 2018: one to the FIRE Foundation as an agency with a budget of $1 million or less, the others to the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA) as an agency with a budget over $1 million and to Harvesters as an agency with a budget greater than $10 million. The awards were presented June 28 at Rockhurst University.

“Ultimately the award is to encourage organizations like FIRE to improve our processes, our policies, all of our practices, so that we are being transparent, efficient, and doing everything in a best practice fashion,” said Lynn Hire, executive director of the FIRE Foundation.

“The big thing for us is not about bringing home a little plaque or whatever,” she continued. “This is a really strong endorsement of our foundation so that when funders are looking at FIRE—we apply for a grant, or we request a sponsorship—it’s like that extra layer or level of insurance that yeah, these people are good stewards of the financial gifts that we receive and we’re doing the very best we can to make an impact and to fulfill our mission.”

FIRE’s mission is to raise funds to support inclusive Catholic education in schools in the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph. Over the past 22 years, FIRE has raised and granted nearly $5 million, providing schools with funds for paraprofessionals, special education teachers, extra training and technology to help students with special needs succeed. Currently, 192 students with significant special needs and 600 with less significant needs attend 14 area Catholic schools benefiting from FIRE funding. FIRE also serves as an advocate and consultant for inclusive Catholic education locally and in other states, with affiliates in Iowa and Illinois.

“Our belief is that being inclusive is part of the Gospel message—we’re called to go to the margins and include everyone,” Hire said. “Being inclusive helps all of our kids in the Catholic schools to live their faith on a daily basis.”

The FIRE Foundation is one of 300 area nonprofits to utilize Support KC for its services.

“Support KC offers all the services that we need in order to function with a team of two and a half people,” stated Hire, explaining that FIRE uses the nonprofit for managing accounting, payroll, taxes, grant writing and professional development opportunities.

“Especially for a smaller nonprofit, it’s a Godsend because then that allows us to not be encumbered,” she explained, “we can focus on our mission.”

The FIRE Foundation has applied for the award a couple of times over the past 5 years, explaining and going over their transparency, accountability and governance practices. Some areas evaluated include policies on ethics in investment and asset protection, board member selection and function, and how the organization communicates to the public about its governance, finances, programs and activities.

“I have to say that’s been sort of a blessing, because with every application we get feedback,” concluded Hire. “There’s always some encouragement for continual improvement.”

For more information on the FIRE Foundation, visit firefoundation.org.

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Monday
December 17, 2018
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph