The Rome Group—On a Mission to Help Organizations Meet Their Goals.
The Rome Group was founded in 1995 on a simple premise: a strong community needs strong nonprofits. When nonprofits do better, so do the communities they serve.
Since then, the consulting firm has helped more than 350 St. Louis area organizations raise funds, plan their futures and improve their performances. Its clients range from small startups to large, established nonprofits like BioSTL and Memorial Hospital.
“At few times in The Rome Group’s history, however, have its clients collectively faced so many challenges as in the past 18 months,” says Dayna Stock, Ph.D., who replaced company founder Amy Rome as CEO in February 2020 — just five weeks before the country officially entered the grips of a pandemic.
“It was not the first year I intended,” recalls Stock, who previously served as chief development officer for the United Way of St. Louis.
With its consultants and staff working remotely, The Rome Group immediately reached out and encouraged its clients to focus on serving those who needed it during this period of great uncertainty. Learning to pivot and address urgent needs took priority over long-range strategic planning. The result: many of The Rome Group’s projects were put on hold.
“Our staff all come from the nonprofit world,” explains Stock. “We instinctively understood the challenge nonprofits were facing. We also followed our own advice, pivoting to how we could best support our clients in these difficult circumstances.”
Among the most pressing issues for everyone was money. With fundraising activities curtailed and other funding sources in question, many nonprofits worried initially about their ability to retain their staff and meet their mission. The Rome Group shared their concern.
Then Stock and her clients learned about the federal government’s Payroll Protection Program. “Soon we were educating ourselves about PPP, both for our clients and ourselves,” says Stock.
The Rome Group’s CFO took the lead on pulling together information for the application. “But much was still unclear,” says Stock. “That’s when Commerce Bank stepped in and truly made the difference.”
Commerce Bank has served as The Rome Group’s bank since its founding. Over that time, the firm has relied on Commerce for day-to-day banking and credit card services.
“We were initially concerned about our eligibility because we had never taken out a loan,” says Stock. “Our banker quickly assured us that wouldn’t be the case.”
“When we were working on our application, she told me that she would be working on PPP all weekend and to feel free to reach out any time,” she adds. “It gave great comfort to know I could pick up the phone or send an email and she would respond quickly. You could take her answer to the bank, which gave us confidence when speaking about PPP to our own clients.”
By the time the second round of PPP funds became available months later, Stock was not only leading The Rome Group, but also serving as interim executive director for one of its clients, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.
“As it turned out, Commerce was this nonprofit’s bank as well, and helped us with its PPP application.”
What did the PPP funds mean to The Rome Group and its clients?
“Because our staff is highly specialized, it was very important for us to make it through this period together,” says Stock. “It’s not overstating it to say that PPP made all the difference in enabling us to avoid layoffs. We never had to wonder if we were going to make it. It was important from both a financial and psychological standpoint.”
PPP funds had a similar impact on the firm’s clients, many of whom have since restarted the major projects that had been paused in the early days of the pandemic.
“Nonprofits have done amazing things in the past year and a half; things that might have taken a decade in any other time,” says Stock. “It’s been quite a learning experience.”
“I can’t overstate how important Commerce was to us in a time of uncertainty,” she adds. “Our banker was helpful to us in the same way we seek to be helpful to the nonprofits we serve.”
That’s what growing stronger is all about.