- Posted by Famcare
- On May 9, 2017
- 0 Comments
Stephen Covey made a great comment in regards to growth in one’s personal character, “Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition–such as lifting weights–we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity.” The same principle applies to developing the character of an organization: you cannot develop organizational character without facing challenges and adversity!
Financial stability is probably one of the most stressing and challenging components of administering a not-for-profit organization. I have certainly put in untold hours orchestrating a framework for fiscal strength, but there is always the unexpected, unanticipated and unwanted situation to come along.
Our 18th year, 2003/04, was a hard year due to our losses resulting from the Bakersfield church debacle. Nonetheless, we ended the year in good standing. Now, California was especially hit hard with the dot-com bubble and post 9/11 recessions; both of which had negative impacts on state and county finances.
I have observed a very distinct pattern with every recession I’ve experienced throughout my career, County government tends to retract and referrals for placements slows down pretty dramatically. Consequently, caseloads fall, along with revenue, and we experience fiscal pressure. We are required to maintain a workforce necessary to meet County contract requirements, but without anticipated referrals from the county, revenues drop which hampers our ability to maintain the required workforce. It’s a real Catch-22. The consequence: by midyear we were substantially in the red!
Undaunted by this dilemma, I kicked our solution-focused, think-tank process into gear, and we came up with three strategies.
First was local advocacy and education. Our first order of business was to stop the County Administrator’s plan to eliminate the funding for our Crisis-Stabilization program. Under the Children’s Services Network umbrella, we were able to mobilize a major grassroots effort with the County Board and were successful! Next, we made a very concerted effort to meet with our County partners to explain our fiscal dilemma and also point out the importance of complying with a recent federal court order requiring the delivery of entitled Specialty Mental Health services. This endeavor was also very successful, effecting a fairly substantial turnaround.
Second, our Board felt strongly that I needed to be much more involved at the state level advocating for proper funding, effective programs and initiating necessary legislation. Thus, I embarked on a new journey which I have continued to this day. I had been participating in the California Alliance of Child & Family Services (CACFS), and its predecessor organization for a number of years. It was the time to become much more engaged, and so I did. I soon became involved in the Katie A litigation, working with the plaintiffs attorneys and with Alliance staff on legislation and key advocacy issues. I have served as a committee chair and on the CACFS Board for seven years, including one year as their President.
Broadening our scope of influence was an extremely important decision. Over the years it has given me the opportunity to be right at the center of every major initiative, piece of legislation or litigation concerning the children, youth and families we serve. My involvement also broadened to include the national scene through the Family-Focused Treatment Association (FFTA), for which I currently serve as their Public Policy Chairperson.
Our Third strategy was to engage in fundraising. Since our inception, I had always taken the position that we needed to focus on services, efficiencies, outcomes, and organizational stability and competence. My motto had been “We’re in the business of serving children, youth and families–not fundraising!” I now realized that organizational stability was synonymous with fiscal stability!
Following the Family Care Network practice, I convened an all-staff brainstorming session to come up with some viable fundraising ideas that would be: 1) fiscally productive, 2) reasonably executed and manageable, and 3) sustainable on an annual basis. This was an incredible process. Our staff was so imaginative, creative and enthusiastic about doing something new to help the agency, it was exhilarating. The outcome was to produce two annual events, one very different from the other.
The first, was to rekindle our “Miracle Miles for Kids” 10K originally conducted 10 years earlier. There were a few other 10K’s in our area, but none focusing on children. Plus, there was no more perfect venue than the beach from Moro Rock to the Cayucos Pier. Our second idea was to launch a “Taste of the Central Coast” food and beverage tasting and auction, before anyone else was using the now overused term “taste of” and before our region was over saturated with similar events.
Originally, our idea was to hire a consultant to take the lead with planning and executing these two events, which needed to be done ASAP! We found somebody with great credentials, but quickly learned they were all about telling us what we already knew and wanted to be the general and not the worker bee. So, we rolled up our sleeves and put together a comprehensive event animation strategy overseen by me, Jon Nibbio and Bobbie Boyer. We put together a series of very task specific workgroups with a key staff member in charge of each group, utilizing a combination of staff and community volunteers on each workgroup to develop a plan and execute it for each specific task.
Incredibly, we successfully planned and launched the reborn Miracle Miles for Kids (MM4K) in about six weeks. Whew! The logistics involved in this event were amazing. We had to plan everything from PR/marketing, registration, parking, sponsors, permits, the start line, finish line, racecourse, first aid/safety, post-race party, the tide, T-shirts, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Our FCNI team was incredible. I mean, these are folks that were also working very hard serving our clients. Everybody pitched in, and I couldn’t have been more proud and appreciative of their efforts, and thankful for the results. It was a great success, and has continued to be for almost 14 years!
Taste of the Central Coast (TCC) was not quite as daunting, but still required a ton of work. MM4K was held in April and TCC was being planned for September. Fortunately, one of our therapists, Marsha Braun and her husband, Charles, had plenty of experience planning and executing these types of events and jumped right in to guide and coach us to a successful end. Also, through our community engagement, Cypress Ridge stepped up and offered their facility pro-bono as well as food prepared by their master chef. Everyone hustled to secure food vendors, wineries, live and silent auction items, and did an amazing job. Finally, former San Luis Obispo Police Chief, Jim Gardner, offered to be our auctioneer. Besides a little rain, everything went off perfectly.
In 2014, we rebranded TCC to “Benefit for Kids.” And this year on August 6th, we will present our 14th event, taking place the same month of our 30th year anniversary!
Mid-year 2004/2005, we were fiscally stressed and things were looking rather bleak. But putting our best minds together and implementing an effective plan, we ended the year well into the black. We closed the year having served 1,295 children youth and families, with an 85% success rate. We averaged 92 employees per month, had 180 volunteers working with our clients, and, incredibly, 1135 individual donors helped us towards heading off a serious fiscal crisis!