By Judith Brush for SVP Boulder County
Social Venture Partners Boulder County (SVP) invested consulting, mentoring, and education in Wild Plum Center from January, 2008 to November, 2010. Once a nonprofit has graduated from SVP investment, the organization qualifies for occasional follow-on project and mentoring support. It is our way of ensuring Investees stay sustainable, effective, and impactful for years to come.
SVP Partners with Investee Nonprofits for Life
Wild Plum Center (WPC) has been working with low-income families in Longmont since 1965. The center is the designated Early Head Start and Head Start provider in 12 locations and delivers a wide variety of services for children and their families, including assigning a Family Education or a Program Specialist to a family and providing individualized, in-home support. Each year WPC serves over 100 families.
Children receive care, early child development, as well as annual health and dental screenings. Families are offered programs and classes in parenting, health and nutrition, a men’s group, and monthly socializations during which children and families get together to have fun and to learn from one another.
East Boulder County is growing at a brisk pace and Longmont is no exception. Currently, it is estimated that 14.7 percent of Longmont’s population (92,858) lives below the federal poverty line (learn more in Community Foundation Boulder County’s TRENDS Report). WPC is growing alongside the community to meets its needs and sustained growth brings some challenges to an organization.
Amy Ogilvie is Executive Director of Wild Plum Center and spoke with me about the center’s recent growth.
Q: Wild Plum Center has grown and now offers a wider range of child and family support throughout Longmont. What challenges have you encountered in implementing this growth and programming?
A: We just about doubled our budget, added a new age group [children zero to three years of age] to serve and purchased a new facility to renovate and operate. And, those are just the big things! Lots of smaller things have changed too.
The management team thought that employee morale was taking a hit as all of the changes were occurring. And the team was asking for some strategies to boost morale.
Q: Could you have accessed outside support to address morale?
A: Yes, we could have accessed support from local consulting professionals that specialize in culture and organizational development. It would have meant that we would have needed to spend time and effort researching who would be a good resource. Then we would have to contact the person, get a proposal, educate the consultant on our organization, and pay for having the work completed. In other words, it would have added a lot of time and cost to the process.
Q: SVP staff helped you scope a project and matched you with a Partner volunteer. What did the volunteer do to help WPC address the pain points?
A: SVP matched us with Roland and he helped me as the Executive Director to determine where to start with addressing the morale issue. He spent a few hours in a dialog with me, asked good questions to help me determine that an important element in getting the morale of the organization moving in the right direction had to start with building the morale of the management team. (After some personnel changes on top of added workload from growth, the team had not yet identified how to function well as a group. We were in a storming phase.) He then facilitated a handful of management team discussions that helped us identify our roles in the group and the roles that others were assigning to us as members of the group.
Q: What changed as a result?
A: The dynamic of the management group changed. We understood one another better and made agreements about how we communicate with each other.
Q: Can you give me a specific example of something that is better now?
A: One of our agreements was that we would communicate with each other more frequently in an effort to make sure everyone on the management knew what was going on. For example, previously, a specific team member would hear or see something but would not share that information with other members of the management team. She was not hiding things, she just did not think they were important enough to share. Then, when she heard something about another situation, she would realize that what she initially heard or said was important and at that time would share it. If she would have acted earlier, the new situation may have not even come up.
Q: What might have happened if these pain points had not been addressed?
A: I think we would have had some unnecessary turn over in the management team and employee morale may have continued to decline.
Q: What was special about working with SVP on this project?
A: The fact that SVP knew me and the center from our previous work together made the process of getting started go quickly. I think the first element that was special in this process was our work with Jennie Arbogash, SVP’s CEO. She set us up with the right Partner. We could not have had a more forthright but non-threatening person than Roland to lead our group through the process. I believe everyone felt supported, learned from the experience and got some good work done with him every time he met with us.
Q: What are you proud of on behalf of WPC?
A: I am proud of the steps forward that our management team took. They extended themselves to take a risk to get morale moving in a better direction and were willing to say some tough things to achieve it.