In this episode of the Nonprofit Leaders Network Podcast, Kirsten interviews Christine Harbeson, executive director of Hope Southern Indiana. Feel free to listen in on this page, or visit www.nonprofitleadersnetwork.com where you’ll find the full transcript and can sign up to receive notifications as new episodes are released (every two weeks). We’ll be submitting the feed to iTunes once we have four episodes released.
Bringing on an Assistant Executive Director
The new position will be doing the day-to-day operations here at the Brown-Starks neighborhood location. It will eventually be taking a lot off my plate and then I can really become more focused about development, which is crucial, obviously, for our organization. We know we have got to do more in the development arena and I just haven’t been able to focus on that.
We we’re not the kind of organization that’s going to continue doing a program because we’ve done it for 30 years or 10 years or whatever. If there’s no need for it in the community or the needs have become much more obvious in another area our organization is such that, that we change and evolve according to those needs. But you can’t do that if you don’t have a development strategy. So it all has to work together, it really does.
Trust but Verify
One learning opportunity I had would be the whole trust but verify type of thing. I thought we had an event booked on a very important day in a particular vendor’s calendar, but it turns out we missed it by a week. That’s one of the things about making mistakes, you learn from those big mistakes and hopefully it makes you a better leader down the road.
Organizational needs had changes and we realized we needed a new space. In order to move we would have to come up with renovation funds. We had never done a capital campaign before and we did not have a wide enough donor base to accomplish that well. One of the things with running a capital campaign is that it also broadens your donor base. That was huge for us.
At the same time we restructured our board which was the impetus to just really kick us off well. We had established our reputation in the organization as being reliable and transparent with our finances so that helped a lot. But the board was just crucial in the development of that capital campaign. They made asks, sent letters and met with people. We raised about $450,000 (almost a whole year’s budget for us as an agency) in just three or four months, it was amazing.
Changes on the Board
The board restructuring was crucial to the capital campaign. We had wonderful caring people on the board, we just didn’t have some of that bonding power and the expertise in particular fields that we needed so badly. We needed a CPA, an architect, someone who could help us with marketing and rebranding. At the same time we reduced the overall board size from 35 to 12-15. We gathered volunteers and included them in some of the strategic planning sessions and we got buy in from the churches. People realized that we needed to work together and that we needed to cover areas of diversity with skills, ages and the demographic who we serve and church representatives. The different kind of churches that we serve here and basically the full county area. I think it turned out really well.
Recruiting New Board Members
I attend a lot of community functions. I also try to visit the different churches that we serve. So I’m always looking, I’m always talking to people. I invite them to board meetings, I try and get them placed on one of the councils to let them get their sea legs so to speak and understand a little bit more about the organization. Obviously the board members are placed on the board by the board. So I may recommend a name or I may set up a meeting with either our board president or vice president and do some interviews. I really want it to be their decision because I want them to buy in. I don’t want to drag people along, there’s nothing really good that comes from that. But really if we just keep talking about Hope, and it’s something that resonates with people, it’s a fairly natural process. I won’t say it’s not challenging at times, the diversity aspect is especially challenging and we keep harping on that. Sometimes folks will come to two board meetings or three board meetings before they are actually on the board, and that helps them with the transition. And it helps those that are rolling off as well because they don’t feel like they’re abandoning the organization. Most people that are with us, are with us heart and soul. Not a casual resume building type of activity, they really do care about what we doing and that makes it a lot easier to recruit.