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Sunday, 15 February 2015 22:00

Kalamazoo Community Foundation implements new strategic plan based on local input

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Carrie Pickett-Erway, president and CEO, Kalamazoo Commuity Foundation. Carrie Pickett-Erway, president and CEO, Kalamazoo Commuity Foundation. COURTESY PHOTO

A month and a half into the new year, Kalamazoo Community Foundation is focused on executing on its plan to find ways to partner with local nonprofits to help the community reach its full potential.

It’s a change of course that didn’t come about overnight for the nonprofit organization.

After a multi-year engagement process with local stakeholders, the foundation identified equity, education and engagement as its top priorities. Now, the foundation plans to build and enhance collaborations, increase capacity in the community and within the organization and grow its intercultural competency to implement that vision.

“The content for the strategic plan really came from engagement that we had before we drafted the plan,” said Carrie Pickett-Erway, president and CEO of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. “We selected three priorities that we really felt like if we could produce significant results in those three areas, it was going to ripple out and create results in a much broader landscape.”

The new vision statement and strategic plan helps change the way the Kalamazoo Community Foundation works, going from transactional to transformational and becoming a community leadership organization with a focus on equity, Pickett-Erway said. The revised vision statement, “A community where every person can reach full potential,” specifically hones in on the Kalamazoo community, she added.

The changes developed over a two-year process, where Kalamazoo Community Foundation engaged residents, focus groups and community partners in the nonprofit sector to get feedback it used to help pinpoint the focus areas.

“(They said) Kalamazoo is such a great place to live. We have incredible generosity here and yet we’re not seeing success for all people in all areas,” Pickett-Erway said of the community’s feedback. “(There’s a) growing recognition within this community that unless we started to look at systemic barriers that prevented people from accessing certain opportunities, then we really weren’t going to create this greater community for all.”

Even though it is still early in the implementation of the new strategy, Pickett-Erway said she has already seen a change in the way the foundation approaches its work, particularly as it engages with the community partners on common goals and desired outcomes.

“It causes us to pause and incorporate that thinking and voice of the community in our work much more strategically,” Pickett-Erway said. “So if we’re interested in launching a new initiative around diversity, inclusion and equity, we’re not going to start that work until we’ve had significant input from the people within the community most affected by that issue.”

According to Janice Maatman, director of nonprofit education programs at Western Michigan University, a change in vision and strategic planning is just part of any nonprofit’s life cycle. Well-run nonprofits measure progress, re-evaluate their work and make changes after a period of time.

“It used to be we did longer (strategic plans), but with things changing so rapidly, most do a three-year plan,” Maatman said. “After those three years … it’s time to look for the next steps.”
Maatman also cites changes in leadership and strong board governance as additional reasons for nonprofits to introduce a new vision statement and strategic plan.

“I think they’re demonstrating good practices,” she said of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation strategic planning process.

Pickett-Erway was also quick to note that the shifts in the strategic plan don’t necessarily mean other community organizations will be left aside. The Kalamazoo Community Foundation is still dedicated to supporting the broad nonprofit sector and to working with donors who are passionate about a number of causes within the community, she said.

“While we may engage in economic development, we’re going to come at it through the lens of equity, education and engagement,” Pickett-Erway said. “There are some things that will be less prominent for us, but we’ll continue to provide some basic support for good quality charitable activities across the board.”

The stronger focus on education particularly helps partnerships such as the one the community foundation has with Kalamazoo Center for Youth and Community. The organization helps students in Kalamazoo’s Eastside and Eastwood neighborhoods to succeed and reach their academic goals.

“Their new vision of a community where everyone can reach their full potential has actually been our vision since 2011 and earlier,” said Sam Lealofi, the center’s executive director. “(Our vision is) to create an environment where all east side youth are all equipped to reach their full potential.”

In 2014, the foundation gave the center a $161,783 grant to use for programming directed at youth development and neighborhood collective impact. The two organizations plan to strengthen their partnership this year, thanks to the new vision statement and strategic plan.

“I think we’re an extension of each other’s vision,” Lealofi said. “They are actively manifesting their vision and strategic plans of equity, education and engagement and those are the very same aspects and elements our board has adopted.”

Not only is the community foundation looking to restructure and refocus its own vision and strategy, but Pickett-Erway is also taking a look at how the nonprofit sector in Kalamazoo can strengthen over time through partnerships and collaboration.

“Kalamazoo is a community that has a very strong nonprofit sector,” Pickett-Erway said. “We have a lot of good-intended people providing a lot of programs and services. Like most communities, I think there are a lot of opportunities to improve our coordination. We still have a fair amount of folks who are providing the same services across town that may not know each other. I think there’s a growing opportunity for nonprofits to learn from each other.”

The foundation looks to bridge these gaps by hosting meetings at the end of grant periods for the organization’s grantees. The grantees are invited to come and share their final reports with the Kalamazoo Community Foundation staff and other grantees, creating a learning environment for those in attendance.

“Where I think (Kalamazoo’s nonprofits) can do even better,” Pickett-Erway said, “is in sharing with each other what worked, what’s working, what they’re struggling with and how to be more efficient with their resources that exist.”

Read 2515 times Last modified on Sunday, 15 February 2015 16:18

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