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Too Much Charity? Some Nonprofits Think So 

"Maybe it's unrealistic expectations," Gordon says, but he wants the hundreds of service agencies in the Richmond area to focus less on what each needs for its own mission and more on what the area needs from them.

It won't be easy, he says. Cooperation may mean one nonprofit admitting it doesn't really need a new computer system but could share one with another group. It might mean mergers between agencies, he says. Or it might mean saying, "I'm going to give up so you can succeed."

Such soul-searching comes naturally to Gordon. As former executive director of Homeward, the regional umbrella organization for all homeless-services organizations, he was credited with helping to establish a less competitive, more collegial relationship between those groups.

This new project is harder. A similar attempt to encourage cooperation between service agencies — Jim Ukrop's proposal to turn the Central National Bank Building into a nonprofit headquarters — failed a few years ago. Not enough nonprofits were willing to share space and functions such as fund-raising with their colleagues, Gordon says.

But there is hope, Gordon says. Other smaller partnerships have succeeded in efforts like the recent decision by the Central Virginia Foodbank Inc. and Meals on Wheels Serving Central Virginia Inc. to build a new kitchen together. Gordon and other nonprofit leaders have been discussing ways to increase cooperation. The group includes the foodbank, Boaz and Ruth, the Daily Planet and Offender Aid and Restoration of Richmond Inc. (OAR), among others. Members decided last week to draft a document that would outline a path to collaboration. S

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