In 2007 we began to explore more sustainable and long-term ways we could support the important work of nonprofits in our community. We discovered the work of Dr. Susan Kenny Stevens, whose book Nonprofit Lifecycles: Staged Based Wisdom for Nonprofit Capacity shows the importance of growing strong, durable organizations.
Since that time we have worked with Dr. Stevens as the lead consultant for ADVANS, which stands for “Advancing and Developing the Value and Assets of Nonprofits in Syracuse.” The theory behind the Lifecycles approach is that all organizations go through developmental stages – those that have the most impact, and are sustainable in the long run, understand their developmental stage and consciously strive to progress in their development.
Participation in the ADVANS program (by invite only) requires a significant commitment of time. Each organization fields leadership teams of staff and board members and works with their assigned consultants to conduct a thorough Lifecycles assessment of programs, governance, management, administrative systems and financial resources. After completion of the assessment organizations have either received immediate consulting and capacity grant support or have extended their work into business planning and further consulting and capacity investments from the Foundation. Since its inception more than 150 nonprofit executives, staff and board members from Central New York have (or soon will be) participated in ADVANS through involvement in the leadership teams.
A key component of ADVANS is the opportunity for shared learning across a spectrum of organizations that range widely in budget size, focus area and geography. All the ADVANS organizations form a learning community both within and across cohorts and participate in regular ADVANS celebrations. In addition the 15 local consultants that have been trained in the model meet with Dr. Stevens three times yearly to share progress.
Through ADVANS we’ve provided assessment, consulting, business planning and capacity investments to 29 nonprofit organizations for a total Foundation commitment (by December 2017) of over $3 million.
In a guest blog post from 2014 Dr. Stevens reflected on the elements that make ADVANS a success and the extended benefits to the Central New York community: “[These participants], and indeed many of the nonprofits in Central New York, now speak in a common vocabulary. ‘Lifecycles,’ ‘table-legs,’ ‘hiring for fit — all now are part of the nonprofit and philanthropic lexicon. And with these words come a set of strategic and operational expectations that [not only] influence management and governance thought processes and practices now, but are also designed to have lasting community value.”
ADVANS organizations are:
ADVANS 1: 2007-2010
Arc of Onondaga
Baltimore Woods Nature Center
Huntington Family Centers
Literacy Volunteers of Greater Syracuse
Spanish Action League (La Liga)
ADVANS 1A: 2007-2009
Cazenovia Area Community Development Association
Frank H. Hiscock Legal Aid Society
The Redhouse Arts Center
ADVANS 2: 2010-2011
Cooperative Federal Credit Union
Farnham Family Services
Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation
ADVANS 3: 2011-2014
Community Action Partnership of Madison County
Cooperative Federal Credit Union
Interfaith Works of Central New York
McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Site*
ADVANS 4: 2013-2015
ACR Health (formerly Aids Community Resources)
Child Care Solutions
E. John Gavras Center
Onondaga Community Living
Oswego County Opportunities
Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility (Southwest Community Center)
ADVANS 5: 2015-2017
Arise Child and Family Services
Everson Museum of Art
Learning Disabilities Association of CNY
Syracuse Northeast Community Center
Toomey Residential and Community Services
ADVANS 6: 2017-2019
Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County
Center for Community Alternatives
Clear Path for Veterans
Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County
* Participated in the one-year version of ADVANS
We bid farewell to Susan Kenny Stevens on May 11th at a wonderful celebration with ADVANS organizations throughout the years.