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Monday, 23 November 2015 11:55

Family Hope Foundation leverages collaboration to fuel program growth

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Family Hope Foundation Board Vice Chair Jane Eppard (left) and Board Chair Lara Kitts (right). Family Hope Foundation Board Vice Chair Jane Eppard (left) and Board Chair Lara Kitts (right). PHOTO: Katy Batdorff

GRAND RAPIDS — As an organization with an all-volunteer board and one part-time staff member, The Family Hope Foundation Inc. knows how to make the best of its limited resources.

Despite its small size, the Grand Rapids-based nonprofit, which offers therapy scholarships to special needs children, serves more than 105 families per year. Established in 2010, Family Hope Foundation has also grown its organization to include an endowment fund of more than $400,000 and an annual operating budget of $125,000.

The reason for the nonprofit’s rapid growth: collaboration with community partners.

“Collaboration and partnerships are always embedded in everything we do,” said Lara Kitts, who chairs the organization’s board of directors. “I think that is a big piece of the growth we’ve had. It’s just part of our philosophy overall for the community.”

Family Hope Foundation’s commitment to collaboration and growth after five years of operation led to it being selected as the finalist in the 2015 MiBiz Best-Managed Nonprofit Awards in the budget category of less than $1 million.

So far, Family Hope Foundation has leveraged its collaborations to grow its therapy scholarship program, which provides families with special needs children up to $1,000 to seek therapies that are not otherwise covered by their insurance policies.

To do that, the organization has partnered with nearly 40 therapy providers to offer a 25-percent discount on services on top of the Family Hope Foundation’s scholarship program, said board Vice Chair Jane Eppard.

By partnering with therapy providers on discounted treatments, Family Hope Foundation can offer scholarships to more families. This year alone, the organization was able to offer nearly 20 additional scholarships as a result of the partnerships, Kitts said.

In 2015, the organization also significantly expanded an existing partnership with Celebration! Cinema to offer low-cost movie showings in a safe and sensory-responsible atmosphere. Previously, the organization hosted the showings at one theater, but as the program grew, Celebration! Cinema offered to expand its collaboration to six additional theaters across west and central Michigan, Eppard said.

“They are fully committed to it after seeing the success of the program,” Eppard said. “The beauty of that is because it’s a partnership, it’s at no additional operating expense to the foundation.”

Overall, Family Hope Foundation’s leadership credits the organization’s entrepreneurial operational philosophy as the primary reason for its success.

“When you launch a nonprofit and when you have an all-volunteer board, you really have no choice but to think entrepreneurially or you’re going to sink,” Eppard said. “From day one, I believe our board has the leadership and the board members have thought entrepreneurially in every aspect of our mission.”

Finalist: Less than $1M
Mission: Family Hope Foundation invests in children with special needs through family support, engaging community experts, advocacy through collaboration and financial assistance to provide access to therapies.
Service Area: Primarily West Michigan with some families from Lansing and Southwest Michigan.
Leadership: Lara Kitts (board chair) and Jane Eppard (board vice chair)
Number of Employees: 1 part-time staff member along with a 16-member volunteer board
Annual Budget: $125,000
Best Practices: Beyond fostering collaboration in the community, Family Hope Foundation also focuses on detailed strategic planning. Since the organization began in 2010, it has set and followed a formal strategic plan to grow. “It isn’t like we’re flying by the seat of our pants,” Eppard said. “It’s always been that we have a plan and we work our plan.”
As part of that strategic plan, the organization prioritized establishing an endowment fund that has allowed it to pay for its first part-time staff member. The endowment also gives the organization more staying power, and that serves as an attractive element to donors, Eppard said.  “We firmly feel that endowments are the future of nonprofits because government funding comes and goes, grants come and go, (but) an endowment anchors your future,” she said.

• Lara Kitts, community leader
• Jane Eppard, Hart & Cooley Inc.
• Brenda Pavlak, Monroe, Sweeris & Tromp PLC
• Sarah Vander Baan, National Heritage Academies
• Peg Beall, Kandu Inc.
• June Gothberg, Michigan Department of Education Office of Special Education
• Stacie Hoey, community leader
• Kimberly Koele, West Ottawa Public Schools
• Chris Kuhl, Northwestern Mutual
• Michael Lichterman, Bolhouse, Baar & Lafere PC
• Keshia McClain, Jenison Public Schools
• Maggie Prein, speech pathologist
• Michael Rios, Edward Jones
• Jamie Rockhold, Hamilton Community Schools
• Anne Snider, community leader
• Sondra Stegenga, pediatric occupational therapist
• Lisa Van Der Kolk, Oak Crest Manor

Read 6503 times Last modified on Monday, 23 November 2015 12:36
Jayson Bussa

Staff writer/Web editor

[email protected]

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