Flywheel Member Celebrates 5 Year Anniversary

At its core, Flywheel curates a community of people who are committed to growing their businesses. Over the years we have seen the diversity of our membership grow, and everyone seems to have their own specific reasons for joining and for staying.

Allen Smart came to Flywheel five years ago, as he transitioned from being in leadership for the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust to starting his own venture, PhilanthropywoRx. He is now, arguably, the most notable spokesperson and advocate for best practices and news on the topic of rural philanthropy around the country or nationally and is known for his provocative and challenging perspectives on the world of philanthropy in general.

Stepping Into an Undefined Space
Smart found the topic of rural philanthropy exciting, in part, because had practiced it for 20 years; knew there was exciting work going on around the country, but there weren’t voices on a national stage to elevate the issues of rural. He now shares regularly what is happening in rural communities in respect to philanthropy versus what is happening in urban and metro- or micropolitan areas.

Smart’s clients are on all sides of the table in rural philanthropy. He works with individual funders and helps them run their grant funding process while also educating them about what they should be paying attention to when it comes to rural philanthropy. He also works with national nonprofits, evaluating how they can offer better services or improve their ability to seek rural funding.

How Does Flywheel Support His Business?
“I never envisioned working in my home,” said Smart. “I know a lot of people made the transition to working from home during COVID and fell in love with it. Working at home makes it hard for me to feel like I have a real job. It just doesn’t feel right to me.” Smart continued to come to the Flywheel offices in Winston Salem, as long as they were open, throughout the pandemic.

Like many people starting a business and trying to keep overhead low, he had friends who had an empty office in their building and offered it to him. However, Smart thought that seemed like it would be kind of lonely. “When I walked into Flywheel, it seemed bright and warm and more animated than other office space. I immediately felt at home.”

He appreciates all of the practical access to amenities, saying that it’s like having a full-time staff taking care of your every need (via the community managers) that you absolutely wouldn’t get in another rental environment.

To run his national business, Smart participates in zoom or phone calls 5-6 times a day with people all over the country. He has an unassigned desk membership but takes advantage of the private phone booth rooms for calls. “The all-inclusive piece is really appealing,” said Smart. “I utilize almost all of the amenities that are included like the locker where I can keep all of my notebooks, so I don’t have to haul things back and forth.”

Additionally, Smart mentioned the on site gym that he uses all the time, the convenient parking, and the availability of a legitimate mailing address. “I find my Flywheel membership to be a real value financially…well-placed for any level of business.”

Smart also mentioned how much he enjoyed the diversity of membership at Flywheel across age and business ventures. For instance, last week he sat across from Emma James, a 4th year med student who has been spending 7 hours a day at Flywheel studying to take her last exam at Wake Forrest.
“Flywheel offers the flexibility for all types of life situations.”

What’s Ahead
Allen has a lot ahead in the coming year. He plans to publish the Guide to Giving in the Northwest in association with “Inside Philanthropy” which will detail (45 pages +) the foundation environment for fundraisers and grant seekers in the Pacific Northwest (MT/ID/WY/OR/WA/AK).

During COVID, he appeared in a number of webinars in response to COVID, but will be back on the road appearing in person at events, including the:

  • National Rural Health Association Annual Meeting in May with my national non-profit clients
  • 10th Annual Public/Private Rural Health Philanthropy Meeting in June, an organization he co-founded
  • 47th Annual Institute on Social Work and Human Services in Rural Areas- TX in July. (Presenting on rural philanthropic environment and strategies)
  • Annual Conference of Small and Growing Community Foundations. KS in OCT. (Presenting on the Brandeis Index report as well as on a panel discussing funder shifts that will sustain post-COVID)

You can also follow Allen via his monthly webinar series with Philanthropy Northwest or sign up for his newsletter which is published every other month.


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