Lakeshore Nonprofit Alliance, Ottawa County Partner on First-ever Nonprofit Community Assessment

submitted by Shannon Virtue

With hundreds of nonprofits operating in the Ottawa County area, there’s no shortage of organizations seeking to give back. To help these organizations fulfill their mission, a group of local executive directors founded the Lakeshore Nonprofit Alliance (LNA) in 2006. Since then, LNA has strived to provide area nonprofits with the tools and knowledge needed to make an impact in the communities they serve.

To gain better insight into the needs of local nonprofits, LNA decided to conduct a first-ever Nonprofit Community Assessment. “We weren’t necessarily looking to measure the direct impact that nonprofits were having in the community, but rather how well the nonprofits themselves were functioning,” LNA Executive Director Patrick Cisler said. This in-depth survey measuring the health of area nonprofits would be unprecedented for the region. “We knew immediately that if we wanted the assessment to be conducted well and with integrity, we needed to partner with a third party,” Cisler said.

LNA turned to the Ottawa County Planning & Performance Improvement Department for assistance. Having worked with the Department’s experienced analysts on the Community Health Improvement Plan and Ottawa Food-related projects, LNA knew they would be up to the task. “This survey was a major undertaking,” said Ottawa County Planning & Performance Improvement Department Assistant Director Shannon Virtue. “We worked closely with LNA staff every step of the way.” County analysts reviewed the organization’s draft questions and provided feedback, ensuring the survey was well-written and easy to understand. Once the questionnaires were completed, the Department collected responses and carefully analyzed the data. Department staff then crafted three highly visual reports — a Summary Report, a Main Report, and a Supplemental Report. “The PPID kept the data collected private, analyzed the results for us, and ultimately produced a beautiful report,” Cisler said. LNA presented the Nonprofit Community Assessment results at Nonprofit Next 2019, the LNA’s annual meeting.

LNA is now employing the survey results as part of their strategic planning. “We have been able to share (the reports) widely in our community,” Cisler said. Individual nonprofits can utilize the results as a way to compare themselves to peer organizations and set benchmarks. The work is ongoing — with plans to conduct the survey every three years.

The County’s experienced analysts are ready to assist local government units, nonprofit agencies and other County departments with their data and presentation needs. “We bring information to life,” said the Department’s Shannon Virtue.

The LNA Nonprofit Community Assessment Summary Report can be viewed HERE. If you’re interested in learning more about the County’s services, please contact the Ottawa County Planning and Performance Improvement Department at (616) 738-4852,, or visit To learn more about LNA’s services, please contact LNA at (616) 594-7133 or visit