Prior to participating in CNE’s Board Academy, The Sexual Assault Resource Agency (SARA) had important strategic decisions to make that would impact the organization’s sustainability in many different ways. Through the Academy, SARA’s Board Chair took part in relevant, timely, and in-depth case study exercises that enabled her to lead the board in making these critical decisions. Largely due to their involvement with this signature CNE program, SARA 1. navigated a property sale and move tol accommodate future growth, 2. began to diversify–and grow–their funding, and 3. started building healthy operating reserves to ensure financial sustainability.
“There have been some exciting things happening at SARA, which make a really good follow-up to the case stories we used in the Board Academy…
“The board voted recently to approve the sale of the SARA property and pay off the mortgage. This will enable SARA to move to a slightly larger location which can accommodate the current planned growth for the agency as well as leaving some room for future growth.
“This past fiscal year, we increased private donations and grants from private donors/foundations to over 35% of our annual revenue. In the prior fiscal year that number was closer to 25% and the year prior to that 18%. We are still working to get the number closer to 40 or 50% but it was a really welcome change this year to be a little less dependent on state and local funding.
“We are also building a cash reserve for the agency. Between the proceeds of the sale and net income this past fiscal year we will have a substantial amount in reserves to hold aside for the future stability of the organization. Our reserve plan challenges us to continue to increase that amount each year with a long-term goal of holding about 9 months of expenses in reserve which is a pretty aggressive goal but we’re giving ourselves some time to get there.
“Our board, while struggling through some situations throughout this year, is really energized and we are so excited to be making some positive changes for the long-term strength of the agency. There is still a lot of work to be done but I wanted to pass along that we took the case study, and our board responsibilities, to heart.”
Without strong networks, executive directors can often feel overwhelmed and lacking support, with pressures coming from both the board level, and from staff. Through participating in the Executive Circle, SARA’s director built strong, trusting relationships with new peers, and received access to valuable resources that she didn’t have beforehand. With these influential networks, participants are better able to ward off burn-out, invest in their personal growth and experience greater satisfaction in their roles.
The CNE Executive Circle has helped me to strengthen existing relationships and build new ones. I have made friends and developed colleagues. The executive director role is one that can be very isolating as the ED struggles to maintain that balance between board and staff. Having other colleagues to talk to can be very beneficial. It does take a while to build trust, but once it’s there, the support and shared knowledge are tremendous.
Legal Health Clinic
Often through taking advantage of educational opportunities, participants realize that they were in need of resources that they weren’t aware of previously. Without fully realizing their need for a Legal Health Check-Up, SARA enrolled in the program. What they learned along the way was that the expert services they received were timely, relevant, and incredibly valuable. They left the experience with strengthened core policies and organizational documents for their board and leadership.
When we were first contacted about this clinic, I did not think we really needed it, but I was willing to participate. What I found out is that we really did need to do this significant review of some of our documents. Our Articles of Incorporation and By-laws are better now as a result of this review. The law student we were working with had insightful input that was very useful. He also was able to answer other questions that my board had. Participation in this Law Clinic should be useful for any nonprofit organization.