UMKC: Leading through scholarly engagement


For an urban-serving research university, classroom teaching is the beginning, not the end, of faculty involvement with the community.

Just ask the people at 98 local non-profit organizations, who joined forces with University of Missouri-Kansas City faculty to grow capacity through a Scholarly Engagement program.

“Scholarly Engagement” is the essence of active partnership between a university and its surrounding community. A relationship-based process, it applies the university’s research, resources, and expertise to address community-identified needs and problems. Scholarly engagement uses innovative ideas and discoveries generated by faculty and staff to serve as powerful engines of positive change, enhancing everyone’s quality of life. It is interdisciplinary, demand-driven, and often entrepreneurial. It is the very core of an urban-serving research institution.

The Greater Kansas City Compassion Capital Fund Collaborative project is a classic example of scholarly engagement undertaken by UMKC.

With funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, UMKC’s Institute for Human Development and Midwest Center for Non-Profit Leadership joined forces to strengthen local non-profits. Many of these organizations work with passion, drive and determination, throwing every ounce of energy into their stated mission. But this leaves little time for stepping back and looking at the bigger picture – growing organizational capacity.

Sustainability. Improving service delivery. Diversifying funding streams. Developing leadership. Building board cohesiveness and direction. Essentially, the future.

Through the Compassion Capital project, faith-based and community organizations with annual budgets of less than $500,000 were given an opportunity to partner with UMKC faculty; 98  local non-profits responded.

Work began as the UMKC team led the organizations through a self-assessment process. Seventy-six completed the self-assessment and received an individualized report written by a GKC-CCFC team member.

Twelve organizations were selected for sub-award grants through a competitive application process. Each received more intensive support: technical assistance, one-on-one instruction from a capacity coach, and dedicated funding.

All 98 organizations, as well as other local non-profits, were invited to join in training sessions targeting capacity needs: Program Development and Evaluation; Marketing; Governance; Strategic Management; and Fundraising – Annual Development Fund.

According to Katherine Kelly, GKC-CCFC participant and executive director of Cultivate Kansas City, the project succeeded.

“It’s really hard to get funding for the kind of organization building that gives an organization structure, strength, continuity,” said Kelly. “We were incredibly grateful to get it. It wasn’t always easy. It was a long and hard process. But I feel really confident that the grant gave us a good grounding to impact the city in the years to come.”

Greater Kansas City Compassion Capital Fund Collaborative participants include:

  • Argentine Neighborhood Development Association
  • ArtsTech
  • Cultivate Kansas City
  • Community Assistance Council, Inc.
  • Downtown Outreach
  • Education First, Athletics Second Coalition
  • Grandview Park Presbyterian Church
  • HopeBUILDERS Home Repair, Inc.
  • Neighbor to Neighbor Foundation
  • Kansas Advocates for Better Care
  • NorthEastminster Presbyterian Church
  • Wildwood Outdoor Education Center

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"It was a long and hard process. But I feel really confident that the grant gave us a good grounding to impact the city in the years to come.”

Katherine Kelly
Executive Director of Cultivate Kansas City