NetworkPeninsula: Developing success for local nonprofits

My favorite part of NetworkPeninsula is seeing nonprofits get together and watching them connect, talk with each other and recognize they can benefit from knowing one another by working together,” says Karen Dutro, the organization’s founder and executive director. 

Dutro is originally from South New Jersey. She obtained her degree at Temple University in journalism, dreaming of becoming a “big-shot journalist in New York City.” However, soon after pursuing this dream, she met the love of her life and decided to gravitate toward a new goal. With her husband, Dutro began gaining experience in grant writing, leading to her passion for helping nonprofits and eventually bringing her to where she is today.

NetworkPeninsula began as Network Williamsburg. Dutro says, “When the organization began, it was a website to share volunteer needs and upcoming events for nonprofits, but as I worked as a development director in Richmond and Hampton, I realized the real challenge was raising awareness for one’s nonprofit.” In 2014, the organization changed its name to reflect its growth. Today, NetworkPeninsula serves the nonprofit sector on the Virginia Peninsula, including greater Williamsburg, Newport News, Hampton, Gloucester, Mathews and Poquoson. 

NetworkPeninsula is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that supports more than 350 nonprofits across the Virginia Peninsula through continuing education, board training, networking, peer-to-peer groups, information sharing and expanded outreach. Its programs are designed to help nonprofits build their capacity to remain sustainable and fulfill their missions effectively. It strives to help all nonprofits by offering many tools to build their board and connect with other area nonprofits. It provides continuous workshops, community connections, a grants database, board trainings, impact forums and more.

Many of the education workshops are specific to fit the needs of the nonprofit. Topics include leadership, team building, attaining valuable employees, grant writing and fundraising. Classes are offered through QuickBooks as workshops and are available upon the organization’s request.

Board training is available as a one-hour webinar. These sessions include fundraising, bringing in new members and how to improve one’s role as a board member. “We have learned webinars are the best way to offer this learning because most board members are working and do not have time to attend workshops,” says Dutro.

Weekly newsletters serve as the community connection for NetworkPeninsula. They are distributed to community members, business leaders, civic groups and religious institutions. The newsletters usually include the nonprofits in the area, recognizing their most recent volunteer needs and upcoming events.

NetworkPeninsula holds annual impact forums in Williamsburg. Its 10th impact forum focused on topics of interest to not only nonprofits but also for profits to the government sector in order to reach the entire community. The forums attract about 175 people annually and include table discussions, presenters and panelists.

NetworkPeninsula moved into its first office space on Thimble Shoals Boulevard in February and shares office hubs for nonprofits. There are currently three nonprofits sharing space, and by the end of this year, six nonprofits will be sharing space, along with a conference room and a kitchen. 

Dutro says in previous years, the most effective aspect of NetworkPeninsula would have been its education workshops or board development classes. “This year,” Dutro says, “we are finding that the challenges of the previous pandemic are leading to these nonprofits dealing with multiple levels of staff burnout. I now find it most beneficial to simply get these organizations back in the room together and to reengage with one another to find ways to work together.” 

Dutro says, “When I first started, I thought there were only three nonprofits in Williamsburg because that is all I would see in the newspaper. I knew there were more, and I knew that helping them get their name out was important.” Since launching the organization’s website, businesses, civic groups and faith-based organizations have and continue to partner with NetworkPeninsula to support and strengthen nonprofits across the Peninsula. 

Address: 749-A Thimble Shoals Blvd., Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Karen Dutro, executive director
Phone: 757-791-3008

About Eleanor Hardy 4 Articles
Eleanor Hardy is from Chesterfield, Virginia, and is currently a junior at Christopher Newport University (CNU) majoring in communication studies with a double minor in journalism and leadership. Throughout her years, she has developed a strong passion for writing as well as media. She is currently a broadcaster for CNU Sports and is in the President’s Leadership Program. She plans to work as a reporter for a news agency in Richmond, Virginia when she graduates college. When Ella is not writing, she enjoys going to the beach and spending time with family.