By Nan Moore, President – United Way of Tyler/Smith County, Texas
Even well-established organizations experience turbulence from time to time and for various reasons. Our organization is no exception. United Way of Tyler/Smith County was founded in 1940 and has experienced many periods of growth and stagnation over the years. A few months ago, during a very difficult period, the board of directors took the steps necessary to replace the organization’s professional and volunteer leadership. These significant changes provided us an opportunity to take a good long look at who we are and where we are headed. We decided to do this serious soul-searching with the help of nonprofit industry experts, Diversified Nonprofit Services (DNS).
The two initial steps in our journey were an assessment of the community’s perception of us and our services and a board retreat focused on strategy development. Diversified Nonprofit Services President, Kevin Bingham led us through these important steps. It was essential to the process that a third-party conducted the community assessment to remove any perception of bias on the part of those being interviewed and to provide a safe environment for honest responses to the questions that DNS developed and asked the participants. We specifically requested input from community leaders and donors who did not support our organization. We wanted to find out why people chose not to give. Kevin Bingham conducted individual interviews and facilitated focus groups to gather useful information about our organization. The assessment report was thorough and many participant responses were consistent with issues we knew we needed to address, but Kevin also unearthed some “ah ha” information that we have been compelled to examine.
With community comments and DNS recommendations in hand, the next step was the board’s strategic response to issues that had been identified. Although the board is made up of corporate and community leaders with recognized influence, Kevin’s expertise in facilitating the strategic exercises proved to be unique and invaluable to everyone involved. The process helped the board determine the core purpose, core competencies, core values, a new mission statement, and a vivid goal that will take our organization to new heights of service and recognition. The results are also evident in the improved commitment of our campaign cabinet and the board of directors.
Many of the changes considered necessary will take time and as with most organizations, staying on track is a challenge we face in completing our organizational transformation. However, we are not concerned that we will succeed because Kevin and the experienced consultants at DNS are just a phone call or visit away.
The mission of United Way of Tyler/Smith County is: “Caring for our community by partnering with You”. The United Way of Tyler/Smith County raised $2,055,000 in its 2008 campaign.