Organizational Capacity Building
Recently the Strategic Consulting & Coaching (SCC) team had the privilege of working with the White Bear Area Emergency Food Shelf (WBAEFS), a full service food shelf that utilizes a choice model: Clients choose the food they need (and like) selecting from produce, milk, eggs, meat, and bread, along with canned and dry goods such as paper towels and diapers. In addition to monthly shopping appointments, the food shelf has a community garden, a weekend backpack program that provides a bag of food for low income children, and a “Bonus Friday” produce distribution. The newly remodeled shopping space is bright and cheerful and is attached to a warehouse where volunteers (of all ages!) enthusiastically sort and store donations by expiration date.
In early 2015 the WBAEFS was facing a great deal of organizational change: new space, high demand, new staff, and many long-time veteran volunteers. A board member reached out to SCC for guidance in working with systems that hadn’t kept pace with the growth and change along with increasing stress on staff and volunteers. Over the next eight months, SCC consultants deployed a variety of skill sets to support the food shelf on several projects designed to increase the organization’s capacity.
At its core, capacity building revolves around improving organizational effectiveness at all levels in order to deliver greater results for all stakeholders (board members, staff, clients, donors, and the community). All nonprofits need certain capacities in order to fulfill their mission, such as strong leaders, strategic planning, financial management, communications, professional development, technology, and fundraising. Capacity building techniques provide nonprofit leaders and their staffs with the skills, knowledge, capabilities, and resources to make their work more effective.
SCC conducted an organizational assessment to review the food shelf’s program and service delivery, board governance, administrative systems and support, financial viability, and community impact. We interviewed staff, volunteers, and board members, and reviewed program utilization and financial data. We then created a short and concise “state of the union” report including capacity building recommendations grounded in best practices and industry norms. SCC put an interim executive director in place while supporting the food shelf during the executive search process. Over the next few months, the interim ED listened, observed, worked closely with the staff and board, and smoothed out the rough edges in the organization. During this time, a communications plan was implemented which included the launch of a volunteer newsletter and updated website. These accomplishments came together to set the stage for the new incoming executive director.
Achieving Successful Outcomes
Capacity building impacted the White Bear Area Emergency Food Shelf’s mission advancement and service delivery in several ways:
A re-engaged and thoughtful volunteer board of directors is committed to sustaining and growing new programs
A new, dynamic and experienced leader is leading the organization in serving families living with food insecurity
Increased distribution and shelves filled with culturally appropriate food are serving more clients
Operating manuals support staff and volunteers in their work
Student interns from Century College have joined the volunteer team
The website is more colorful and easy to navigate for valued clients, community volunteers, and donors
Our team of SCC consultants provided a variety of capacity building skill sets to not only support the White Bear Area Emergency Food Shelf’s board, staff, and volunteers in navigating the many challenges before them but to set the stage for a new chapter in serving its clients. Today the community is benefiting from an engaged and recharged community asset where “neighbors help neighbors in times of need.”