Thursday , 17 August 2017

Making good works, work better

Some might believe that a mission and vision aren’t particularly relevant for a human services organization since the goal is – basically – to give away what is taken in. But, the pressure all non-profits face in generating funding, coupled with a dramatic increase in families seeking assistance makes it more – not less – important to have a clear vision and mission statement.

Case in point: a 53 year old veteran who came to Community Lifeline Center in need of assistance with rent, utilities, food and car payment.

He had moved to the area from Arlington a year ago after obtaining employment from a contractor who promised work between here and Sherman. Unfortunately 9 months later he was laid off. He was told he would be informed when more work was available, but for now he had no income. He was eligible to receive unemployment, but the unemployment process takes time, and he needed financial assistance immediately. Community Lifeline Center was able to complete an in depth assessment, and create a plan for self-sufficiency. The client was given immediate assistance, and signed up to attend a financial literacy class. He also applied for emergency SNAP. A counseling appointment was made to assist in handling the stress and anxiety that comes with financial crisis and he is currently attending job seeker classes.

He received temporary assistance to fill in the gap between incomes, but also skills that can improve his life in the future: getting over a rough patch on the way to self sufficiency.

And, that small example illustrates the importance of having a mission and vision statement:  knowing how to best apply the precious resources available. In effect, helping our donors, our sponsors, our case managers, and our clients get the greatest ROCI – “Return on Community Investment”.

So, rather than operate on an ad hoc basis, the organization committed to articulating a clear, relevant, actionable vision and mission statement. Todd Cole, a highly experienced business consultant, working under the auspices of Executives in Action [www.executivesinaction.org], guided Community Lifeline staff, volunteers and Board toward a long term vision and mission statement.

First, the mission statement:

The Community Lifeline Center Mission Statement:

“Community Lifeline Center strengthens communities in North Collin County by guiding residents in crisis back to self-sufficiency and independence”

Importantly, the emphasis is on strengthening the communities CLC serves in North Collin County, with a focus on helping residents in crisis return to economic stability. Independence takes more than financial assistance. That’s why the story above, and the stories CLC writes every day, include an emphasis on financial literacy, budgeting, and job seeking skills: self sufficiency, by definition, is about what one does, not what one is given.

The vision?

Community Lifeline Center Vision:

“Using its own resources, and through collaboration with other human services organizations, Community Lifeline Center is known for its ability to help North Collin County families and individuals solve an unexpected crisis. Community Lifeline Center creates solutions that stimulate community vitality by ensuring residents return to self-sufficiency as quickly as possible”.

The CLC vision statement provides a vivid description of where the organization sees itself in the future: where all of the independent decisions – and all of the outcomes of CLC services – will lead the organization. In this case, the vision is that CLC will become the starting point for those in crisis.  Whether on its own or through referrals to other organizations, or in concert with them, Community Lifeline Center will create solutions that serve the community well being.

What the mission and vision statements essentially do is formalize the thousands of different decisions and interactions that already take place at Community Lifeline Center. They give voice to the instincts of the case managers and volunteers.

Hopefully, they also give reassurance to individual donors, corporate partners, and city and state and federal grant providers that Community Lifeline isn’t what it is because of what it does.  Rather, what Community Lifeline Center does, is because of what it believes in.

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