The long-term proposition of strategy development
In “Strategy, When It Isn't,” his latest article for The Huffington Post, National Assembly CEO Irv Katz compares aspects of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, and then zooms in on the role of strategy, strategic planning and strategy development.
While having a strategic plan has become de rigueur for large nonprofit organizations and typical for smaller ones, he wonders how many examine the purpose of their strategy development before they jump in. “It is not to decide what we want to do,” he suggests, “but to determine what we need to do to achieve our mission, in light of current and emerging environmental trends, to maximize our distinctiveness as an organization and to survive or thrive.”
With that firm footing, an organization can go about the business of being strategic—including asking the hard questions that put an organization on an intentional path toward its goals.
However pursued, Katz says, long-term strategy preparation has critical value to for-profit and not-for-profit organizations alike. And that value is enhanced when the reasons for strategic development are fully explored before the first planning meeting comes to order.
—John Leonard, Editor
Children & Youth
Investing in a child's early development sets the stage for effective transitions into elementary school and long-term academic success, says a new policy report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success reports that 36 percent of children are on track in math reading and science; 56 percent in their physical well-being; 70 percent in their social and economic growth; and 74 percent in their level of school engagement. However, 63 percent of three- and four-year-olds in low-income families were not attending a preschool program, compared with 45 percent of children in more affluent families.
Among the many social programs impacted by the federal shutdown and sequestration, Head Start continues to play a critical role in the lives of poor families, says CLASP in introducing new fact sheets on Head Start preschool and Early Head Start. Nearly all Head Start preschool children benefit from locating routine medical care and dental care, and most Head Start and Early Head Start kids get medical screening and follow-up treatment.
The Center for Promise, the first research center at America’s Promise Alliance, examines how youth access opportunities in their communities, their goals, and services available in youth systems. In its latest brief, Navigating and Negotiating Pathways for Success: A Thematic Analysis of the Life Experiences of Youth and Their Caregivers, the center conducted two rounds of detailed interviews, approximately six months apart, with 47 pairs of caregivers and youth in various communities in the United States.
The association between delinquency and victimization among children and youth ages 10 to 17 is explored in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s new bulletin, Children's Exposure to Violence and the Intersection Between Delinquency and Victimization. The report sifts and simplifies data on the incidence and prevalence of children's exposure to violence across all ages, settings, and time frames.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth continue to be disproportionately represented among homeless youth, and their homelessness experience carries with it violence, discrimination and poor health, says the Center for American progress in a new report. Seeking Shelter: The Experiences and Unmet Needs of LGBT Homeless Youth explores the lives of LGBT homeless youths and lays out policy priorities to help them change their lives for the better.
The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has also released a resource kit, Safe Space. GLSEN's research shows that LGBT youth face more verbal and physical harassment and abuse than some other social groups in schools—for example, racial and ethnic minorities, religious groups, those with disabilities.
A staggering 50 million Americans face the challenges of caring for a loved one while working, according to AARP. Working caregivers often lead a life out of balance and full of stress. AARP caregiving expert Amy Coyer’s new e-book (free), Juggling Work and Caregiving, advises caregivers to be upfront about their situations. Discuss the issue and solutions—flexibility, job sharing, flex time, and similar options—with HR, personnel managers and supervisors. Available online from Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iTunes and Sony.
Family-friendly workplace ordinances ease the burden for workers who care for children or other dependents, reports CLASP, with San Francisco and Vermont on the frontier of this culture change. Even small portions of flexibility make a big difference, says CLASP—for example, schedules that let a low-wage worker take an elderly and disabled family member to critical medical appointments.
Grand Resources: A Grandparent's and Other Relative's Guide to Raising Children with Disabilities equips full- and part-time caregivers with national resources to help children thrive. This guide is offered by Generations United through funding from the CVS Caremark Charitable Trust.
Poverty & Community
"Your Zip Code should not determine your chances of success," says Opportunity Nation in announcing its updated Opportunity Index site. Opportunity Nation reports that its national opportunity scores increased 2.6 percent since the index was first launched. These include: improvements in 26 states and Washington, D.C.; declines in unemployment rates but increases in poverty rates; internet-access improvements in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.; and a decrease in violent crime in 44 states.
Reductions to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) effective November 1 mean that approximately 2 billion meals will no longer be available for children, elderly people or the disabled who count on SNAP to help put food on the table. SNAP helps over 47 million low-income Americans with their nutrition needs, and 76 percent of SNAP households include a child, elderly person or disabled person, according to Feeding America.
For every 100 poor families, just 25 received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in 2012, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). These cash assistance benefits dropped in purchasing power in 2013 and, says CBPP, have fallen to at least 20 percent below their 1996 inflation-adjusted levels in 37 states.
Shortfalls in funding for renewals of housing choice vouchers (HCVs) could result in 185,000 fewer families with vouchers by the end of 2014 as compared to 2012, according to the Center for Budget and Policy priorities. CBPP attributes the risk of loss to the sequestration cuts of March 1 of this year. More than 2.1 million low-income households use HCVs.
Nearly 50 years ago, the U.S. declared a war on poverty with the creation of Head Start and other programs for low-income families. Now the Coalition on Human Needs is harvesting stories of those who have been helped by anti-poverty services or have helped others or have seen the benefits of such programs in their communities. The “Our American Story” program partners with the Community Action Partnership over the next few months to put these real-life stories to use.
The largest U.S. charities increased revenue by 4 percent in 2012 but a recent survey suggests that fundraising revenue will drop 1 percent in 2013. The Chronicle of Philanthropy's annual Philanthropy 400 list says the 2012 increase was just half the increase reported in 2011. United Way Worldwide was the top fundraiser with $3.9 billion in 2012, an increase of 1 percent over 2011. Donations from donors of all incomes struggled, reports the Chronicle, although nonprofits with donor-advised funds and gifts from wealthy philanthropist had "a strong year."
Perhaps because they are so infrequent, nonprofit financial scandals often make the headlines, says American Nonprofits and the publication Blue Avocado. The two organizations surveyed 900-some nonprofit finance professionals whose job it is to steward charitable, earned, and public funds in the pursuit of mission.
Over 1,000 U.S. nonprofits checked the "significant diversion" of funds checkbox on Form 990 between 2008 and 2012, according to an investigative report by the Washington Post and GuideStar. According to the report, just 10 of the largest disclosures had combined losses that could total more than half a billion dollars. See the Post’s searchable database of nonprofits that have disclosed such diversions.