EAU CLAIRE — A new grant program has been created to help local nonprofit organizations improve their operations.

Royal Credit Union and the Eau Claire Community Foundation teamed up to launch the Nonprofit Professional Development Fund and Grant Program.

The idea arose after officials noticed a disturbing but understandable pattern occurring when it came to funding professional development for nonprofits, said Sue Bornick, executive director of the Eau Claire Community Foundation.

Time after time over the years, cash-strapped local nonprofits would apply for grants to pay for training, conference attendance or other professional development opportunities for employees — only to lose out to seemingly more urgent needs involving delivery of services to residents in need.

“There were always other needs that seemed to rise above professional development,” Bornick said.

A similar pattern often took place when nonprofit officials determined where to spend their scarce resources.

“Professional development is often the piece that gets cut first if a nonprofit can’t make budget,” Bornick said, noting that many nonprofits don’t have the financial resources to pursue staff development that would help them help others.

After observing these trends, RCU grant and giving coordinator Heather Johnson Schmitz, who sits on the foundation’s grant committee, approached Bornick with the idea of starting a fund to distribute grants to local nonprofits in need of money for professional development.

The fund was started with leftover money from the foundation’s Response and Recovery Community Fund, which was created to help nonprofits respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, along with a donation from RCU. Nonprofits can begin applying for the grants on Nov. 1.

“Having this opportunity will be wonderful for our local nonprofits,” Bornick said. “It’s going to help them serve the community in a bigger and better capacity than they could before.”