Five area nonprofits capped off a two-year intensive capacity program with a celebration at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que this fall. The five participated in the fifth round of ADVANS (Advancing and Developing the Assets and Value of Nonprofits in Syracuse), a major capacity building initiative started by the Foundation in 2007. Over the course of two years more than $472,390 in capacity assistance was made available to the five organizations, which ranged in size and focus area. Each undertook an intensive assessment and capacity planning process and received $69,500 in grants and local consulting services. Lead consultant Stephanie Small of Synergy Partners also visited regularly to provide technical assistance and to convene a learning community of organizations and consultants.
The Dinosaur celebration included not only the 4-6 member teams from the current class but also previous ADVANS organizations. During the presentation, the graduates reported on the changes that have ensued through their participation. Their comments are quoted here:
Tania Anderson, ARISE Child and Family Services – “The ADVANS program came at a perfect time for ARISE. We already knew we were transitioning our top leadership position, but the self-assessment gave us the information we needed to restructure our agency to be more effective in achieving our mission and positioning ourselves in a complicated marketplace. Our ADVANS consultant provided valuable professional development to the new leadership team that emerged from the restructuring. The capacity-building grants gave ARISE important tools for our Information Technology infrastructure and allowed ARISE to implement a comprehensive and transparent wage structure for its nearly 1,000 employees. The program continues to inform the work we do every day.”
Elizabeth Dunbar, Everson Museum of Art: “Thanks to ADVANS, the Everson made a lot of progress in developing a master plan for our future. In addition to adopting a new mission statement and creating our first comprehensive diversity statement, we developed a three-year strategic plan that is guiding our work on a daily basis. From the macro to the micro, our plan is being put into action and we have already accomplished a number of our original goals!”
Paulette Purdy, LAUNCH (formerly Learning Disabilities Association of CNY) – “For LAUNCH, the ADVANS program was literally transformative. We began the two year program as the Learning Disabilities Association of Central New York and ended the program with our new name and brand, LAUNCH. Our name better aligns with our mission and the clients we partner with. A name change has been discussed by our board and staff for years, but we didn’t have the tools to make that happen. Through the ADVANS process of assessment, identifying areas for capacity improvement and financial support, we were able to come to consensus that now was the time to LAUNCH the change!
Michael Collins, Syracuse Northeast Community Center – “Participation in ADVANS provided the space and tools for our agency to self-examine where our foundation was strong, and what parts of our infrastructure needed reinforcing, while providing us with resources to address the identified needs. With the guidance of our incredible consultant, our board has become more focused in how it approaches governance. Additionally, our performance management, human resources, and fund development capabilities have all expanded, and we now have a flexible, dynamic plan to handle future opportunities and challenges.”
Judy D’Amore, Toomey Residential and Community Services – “Toomey was able to create our own website to assist the agency with marketing and heighten our visibility. Our work with the board of directors regarding increasing engagement had terrific results. The board feels much more connected and invested in the agency and the mission. The board is now very involved in the committee structure. The governance for the agency is probably the most improved aspect of the grant.”
ADVANS began ten years ago and a new cohort, ADVANS 6, was just launched. By the end of 2019, the Foundation will have invested $3.8 million in building the capacity of 34 nonprofits across four counties, 25 professional consultants will have been trained in the Lifecycles model and more than 170 community members will have participated on leadership teams.