I hope you enjoyed the holidays! I meant to write before the semester ended, however it was very busy here in Texas, so finally… here are a few thoughts on our work together. Apologies for the delay!
First, I want to thank each of you for your commitment, your passion and your desire to positively impact your community. Your professionalism and extra care is truly impressive and you should be very proud of your work. I am grateful for the opportunity to know you and work with you! And I look forward to my next visit.
As I think about the organizations participating in the capacity building project, a few thoughts come to mind – Clarity on mission? Clear sense of purpose? Strategy discussions to help the organization define their niche? Competitive landscape?
Please remember that I am always inclined to treat a Community Benefit Organization as a regular business, albeit a business with a mission to improve the world. Business processes are pretty standard stuff. In my mind, the Standards of Excellence should be adopted by every organization as a matter of conducting business properly; they are a critical part of the nuts and bolts. However, the inspiration to achieve mission, to maneuver through the many obstacles faced by every business, comes from shared values and a clear vision of what will be achieved. Knowing that time / money spent in an organization is improving the world keeps all stakeholders engaged and actively contributing. In my opinion, organizational outlook and forward thinking planning is paramount to success; and both need to be bold and simply stated, over and over again.
Of the four assessment reports I witnessed, I was glad to see one organization with a very strong leader and a clear strategy, moving forward with a vision of what the organization will accomplish. That leaves three organizations (of the ones I observed) with much more work to do. I say that with all due respect; I know each is thankful for your help!
As we move forward with each project, I wonder if it is possible to help each organization rethink their value, to rethink the scope of their work.
1) Calvin Crest: Can a camp survive as an isolated entity dependent on just one (fractured) constituency? Is that business model sustainable indefinitely?
With nearly two million children in CA living in poverty, is there a void that could be filled by a Christian camp? …To instill hope and teach coping and life skills and inspire impoverished children to achieve more than they may realize is possible? To build confidence and self awareness? And if the children happen to be Jewish, Muslim or atheist isn’t there great value in serving all? In learning from all? Is the mission about the faith or those served?
2) The Warnor Theater: Why simply restore a historic theater when you can restore the whole neighborhood?
Within a neighborhood that can be characterized as withered (though I believe it is now starting revitalization), is it reasonable to assume that a restored and thriving theatre can be the epicenter of a (new) cultural arts district? Instead of saving the theater, why not save the whole block and provide access to the arts and arts education to thousands of individuals who may not have that luxury? Arts programs may be cut in schools, but they don’t have to be cut from the community. Can they create a unique after school program for the arts? With a booming arts district as the cornerstone, can the neighborhood thrive? And soon include busy restaurants, shops and related businesses? (Can the Fulton Mall be part of the plan?)
By now, my point is probably obvious. I think our work must inspire an exhaustive review of all possibilities and we must help each leader consider what each organization could accomplish…as a key player in a thriving community. Your fresh ideas will help them see opportunities they may have not considered; I encourage you to also use your time with them to inspire new thought on the value they could add to the community with a broader scope.
While the Standards of Excellence are clearly important for organizational health, we also need to ask, “What are you doing to appeal to a broad demographic and inspire long term investment from supporters?”
Please let me know your thoughts! I will see you soon!!