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Liana Toscanini, executive director of the Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires. Photo courtesy Schumacher Center for a New Economics

BerkShares Business of the Month: Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires

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By Tuesday, Dec 12, 2017 Trade and Commerce

Great Barrington — A nonprofit for nonprofits: That’s what Liana Toscanini dreamt up while shopping in the produce department at the grocery store a few years ago. “People kept approaching me with pleas for help with grant writing, marketing, and general public relations,” she recalled. Longing to pick out her apples without any interruptions, Liana started the Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires in 2016.

A clearinghouse for information, Liana described the NPC as a “chamber of commerce for nonprofits.” Its mission is to facilitate growth for charitable organizations through shared resources, affordable products and services, and creative collaboration. Liana seeks to connect organizations across the county that are working on similar issues but may not know of each other. This past summer, NPC launched a magazine called Connections to highlight the voices in the nonprofit sector.

Liana has been one of those voices for a long time. Prior to starting NPC, Liana was the marketing and development director at Community Access to the Arts and a longtime volunteer in her own community of Sandisfield, where she developed the skills and relationships that earned her the reputation as the grocery store consultant.

That reputation holds true throughout the county. When she isn’t in her Great Barrington office, Liana is called to travel all over the Berkshires to offer NPC’s services to organizations across the county.

In between meetings she’s restocking coffee shops, libraries and stores with copies of NPC’s “Giving Back” guide. With so many organizations in need of support, people don’t always know where or how to contribute. The guide lists the approximately 1,000 nonprofits in the Berkshires and ways in which to get involved. Over the years Liana’s developed a theory that people are so generous because they are grateful to be here. “This is such a beautiful place and not everyone can live here,” she said. “Those that do are eager to give back.”

When it comes to lending support, Liana encourages people to think outside the box, particularly during the holiday season. Consider “giving an elderly person a ride, purchasing products from local charities, attending a holiday concert, or donating clothing.” But if you’re short on time, consider a donation in BerkShares. Liana said “there’s no reason not to” accept our local currency. It’s a way for nonprofits to stand in solidarity with other nonprofits working to solve our county’s problems. As Liana points out, many organizations in the region already purchase goods and services from local companies. From office supplies and printing to accounting and graphic design, there are many ways for nonprofits to recirculate the currency.

As a matchmaker for the nonprofit sector, Liana sees opportunities for collaboration around shared services for businesses and nonprofits. By developing resources that can be utilized by both, we can reduce our needs on outside services and look internally for the solutions. At the end of the day, she believes that “it’s all about connections.”

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