United Way aims to spur ‘collective impact’

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Children with economic disadvantages graduate from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools at a much lower rate than other children.

With children overall spending only 20 percent of their time in school, United Way of Central Carolinas sees the time that at-risk, low-performing children spend outside the classroom as a great opportunity to work with them in ways designed to increase the chances they will graduate.

As part of a larger “collective impact” strategy it has undertaken to bring together community partners to address urgent health-and-human-service needs, United Way is teaming with 15 of its partner agencies to help at-risk kids perform better in school.

Central to that effort, which is supported by a $200,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation, will be a system to share data on the children’s academic performance, using those metrics to better understand the role the 15 agencies’ programs play in the children’s progress.

“We need a collective data system to show we’re having impact,” says Dennis Marstall, vice president of community investment and impact at United Way. “And then we need a collective reporting system to demonstrate how we’re having the impact.”

Those 15 agencies serve nearly 32,000 children in Mecklenburg County, with 84 percent of them living in households with annual income below $25,000.

United Way also is partnering on the data-sharing project with the Institute for Social Capital, an arm of the Urban Institute at UNC-Charlotte, which will work with the agencies and United Way do a better job collecting and analyzing data from the school system and other government agencies on students served by the 15 partner agencies.

Another partner, the Larry King Center at the Council for Children’s Rights, is helping to coordinate the work of the participating agencies and help them develop metrics to help predict whether students will drop out.

The project also will track student performance against “benchmark” goals.

A goal for pre-school children, for example, is to be ready to enter kindergarten, while a goal for students is to read at grade level by third, fifth and eighth grade.

The idea is to create a “pipeline” of progress from birth to age 18, and “create early success that builds on success,” says Jerri Haigler, vice president of education, engagement and communications at United Way.

In the past, she says, the 15 participating United Way agencies have lacked access to comprehensive data and analysis needed to help show the full impact of their programs on the school performance of the children they serve.

The date-sharing project will change that, says Jane McIntyre, executive director at United Way.

“All the programs do good work, but we don’t know how good and they don’t know how good unless they can really measure the results they’re getting with children,” she says.

By giving all partners access to all the data, she says, individual agencies can see what is working and what can be improved so they can begin to make changes.

Volunteers also will be key to the initiative, Haigler says.

United Way has launched a drive to recruit, place and train 1,000 mentors, tutors and readers to work with children at the 15 partner agencies.

While it will begin in Mecklenburg County, tracking results over 10 years, United Way plans to expand the data-sharing project throughout the five-county region it serves.

United Way also plans to launch collaboratie initiatives to address the issues of housing and homelessness, and health care, the two other priority needs that are the focus of its new overarching strategy of raising awareness and making a bigger impact on the region’s priority needs.

By sharpening its focus and trying to have a greater impact, McIntyre says, United Way can “make a greater difference with the dollars” it raises in the community.

William Friday has led by serving

By Todd Cohen

North Carolina owes a huge debt of gratitude to William Friday.

Friday, who turns 92 today, is our state’s father figure and beloved son, and its truest servant-leader.

More than any other single individual in the second half of 20th century, Bill Friday helped shape the transformation of our state from an agricultural and manufacturing economy driven by tobacco, textiles and furniture to a global competitor that fosters and is fueled by innovation in information technology, bioscience and world-class research, as well as the emerging fields of social entrepreneurship and public service.

After working as a young aide to Frank Porter Graham, the legendary president of the University of North Carolina who built that institution into an engine of economic growth and a beacon of social progress, Friday himself was named president of UNC in his mid-thirties, growing the institution from three campuses to 16 in his 30 years in the job.

A political genius, Friday has led not through the raw patronage and crass deal-making typical of politicians, or through their shameless posturing and pursuit of self-interest, but by treating people with dignity and decency, listening carefully, and working quietly and diligently behind the scenes to build consensus and support.

He has been a passionate and relentless advocate for the fundamental need to make higher education affordable and accessible for North Carolinians.

Under his leadership, the UNC System produced the workers, leaders and innovators in the public, corporate and nonprofit sectors who have helped make North Carolina a formidable economic power and a force for social progress in fields ranging from medicine and digital media to higher education, human services, finance and philanthropy.

He was instrumental in the creation of Research Triangle Park, an entity designed to tap and enrich the know-how and human capital of nearby Duke University, UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University, and that has made the Raleigh-Durham area a global center for research, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Friday has been a national leader in the fight to protect higher education from the influence that big-time college athletics and the big money it attracts can have on academic excellence.

As UNC president, and then for 10 years as president of the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, Friday worked tirelessly to try to address urgent needs ranging from poverty and illiteracy to poor health and the other social ills that can crush human hope and progress.

Until his hospitalization in May, when he received a pacemaker, Friday had continued to host North Carolina People, the weekly interview program UNC-TV has broadcast for over 30 years that celebrates the depth and breadth of the leaders, innovators and rich mix of characters who personify North Carolina. (He plans to return to the studio for his show next week, taping an interview with Gen. Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a graduate of North Carolina State University, Friday’s alma mater.)

Before his hospitalization, Friday also had continued to go to work and meet with visitors in his tiny office on the second floor of Graham Memorial, the historic building on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill that is named for Edward Kidder Graham.

Graham, who became UNC’s eighth president in 1914, once said the boundaries of the university were “co-terminus” with those of the state, a clear claim of turf that underscores the university’s core mission of making North Carolina a better place to live and work by educating and serving its citizens.

Trained as a lawyer, not an academic, Bill Friday has been North Carolina’s consummate teacher and change-agent because he understands, innately and through his own continuing education, that leaders lead by listening and learning, by sharing what they know, and by engaging and connecting their fellow citizens in the job of working together to build a better world.


Work Family Resource Center seeks partners

By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — To help their employees find child care, Wake Forest University, Senior Services and Kaplan Early Learning Center partner with the Work Family Resource Center in Winston-Salem.

The arrangements generate fees for the nonprofit agency from Wake Forest and Kaplan, as well as elder-care services from Senior Services for Work Family’s own employees.

“We are trying to diversify our funding, like most nonprofits,” says Katura Jackson, executive director at Work Family.

The agency, which opened in 1991, grew out of a 1985 study, funded by the Winston-Salem Foundation, that looked at the need for an agency, and the feasibility of creating it, that would provide resources and referrals for families seeking child care.

Operating with an annual budget of $1 million and a staff of 15 people, the Work Family Resource Center works to help families find child care and to improve the quality of child care in a nine-county region.

Generating 60 percent of its funds from a federal grant that passes through the state, 35 percent from Smart Start and 5 percent from contributions and fees, the agency provides service to parents and child-care providers, and serves as an advocate for better child care.

Families, for example, can phone or visit the Resource Center and talk to a parent specialist to learn about quality child care and how to recognize it, including the star-rated licensing systems and factors such as the level of teacher education, child-class ratios, physical environment, and integration of children and staff.

The agency, which maintains a computerized database with information on roughly 800 child-care programs in Forsyth and eight nearby counties, also encourages parents to visit programs before enrolling in them.

And, through $1.9 million from Smart Start, it provides a child-care subsidy for roughly 400 children, as well as emergency child-care assistance for families in crisis.

For child-care providers, the Resource Center offers a one-day start-up class, as well as a five-week course in developing family child-care as a business, along with a range of professional development programs.

“We encourage providers to go back to school to improve their educational levels,” Jackson says. “The higher the education level, the better the children will be prepared once they leave child care and enter the school system.”

The agency also can send a staffer to home child-care centers to provide a technical-assistance plan that providers can use to improve the quality of their program under the star-rated licensing system.

And it offers about 10 one-time grants of $1,200 each, with funding provided by Smart Start, to help providers improve the quality of their programs.

The Resource Center also employs specialists who work with providers in the areas of services for infants and toddlers, healthy social behavior, and school-age children.

A specialist in healthy social behavior, for example, works with child-care programs in the nine-county region to help them better work with pre-school children with challenging behavior to prevent their suspension or expulsion, or burnout among staff.

Now, using a new strategic plan its board recently approved, the Resource Center is looking for ways to build awareness about its work, and to diversify its funding base.

That will include trying to generate fees from more corporations that are looking for assistance in helping their employees find child care, and possibly also offering assistance in finding nanny services and babysitting services.

A key goal of those corporate services, Jackson says, will be to “help employees reduce the amount of time they spend on the job during the day looking for child care.”

Nonprofits urged to do better at growing leaders

By Todd Cohen

The nonprofit sector faces a crisis in leadership, and needs to be more systematic in developing a pipeline of new leaders, a new survey says.

Studies in recent years have forecast a mass exodus of executive directors as a result of retirement, burnout and lack of support from boards.

And The Bridgespan Group estimates nonprofits will need to hire an additional 640,000 senior executives by 2016.

A new Bridgespan survey says nonprofits recognize they face leadership gaps but are not sure how to address them.

Nonprofits should pay more attention to leadership development and succession planning, Bridgespan says.

The biggest obstacle to better leadership development “may be the behavior of leaders,” it says.

“Many nonprofit leaders (including nonprofit boards) confront the question of leadership development only when faced with a succession crisis,” it says. “And by then it may be too late.”

Among over 225 leaders responding to the new Bridgespan survey, nearly two-thirds disagreed with the statement that their organization is “highly effective in developing a strong internal and external pipeline of future leaders.”

Bridgespan also has produced a guide, known as “Plan A: How Successful Nonprofits Develop Their Future Leaders,” that is designed to treat leadership development as a “proactive and systematic investment in building a pipeline of leaders within an organization, so that when transitions are necessary, leaders at all levels are ready to answer the call.”

The guide offers a three-year “road map” that spells out an organization’s leadership needs, identifies future leaders, and suggests five interconnected strategies to build leadership.

Engaging senior leaders is a key strategy, with most respondents to the survey, for example, saying their organization’s CEO is “actively engaged in building a strong pipeline of leadership candidates,” but a majority also saying senior leaders “aren’t held accountable for their development efforts.”

To build leaders for the long-term, Bridgespan says, the CEO “must serve as the de-facto chief talent officer,” signalling the importance of leadership development, setting expectations for the team, and putting “the process in motion by first developing the people who report directly to her and then asking them to do the same for their teams.”

By holding herself and others accountable for results, Bridgespan says, “she communicates her commitment to the rest of the organization.”

A systematic development effort, it says, starts with “an understanding of the future leadership capabilities required to achieve the organization’s strategy.”

Yet only 39 percent of survey respondents say they understand the leadership capacity their organization will need to three to five years to achieve its strategic goals.

Leaders grow mainly through “well-designed on-the-job experiences,” Bridgespan says.

Yet while many nonprofits offer their staff members “stretch” opportunities, it says, the most successful groups are “systematic” about leadership development, “consciously building the right skills in the right people over time.”

While doing that effectively requires a “clear understanding of the development needs of each individual,” Bridgespan says, only 29 percent of leaders surveyed say potential leaders have development plans in place.

Internal promotions are not always enough develop future leaders, even at the best-prepared organizations, Bridgespan says.

And while its data show that organizations are relatively strong in external hiring, hiring new leaders represents just the first step.

And while it is critical to make sure the first few months on the job are planned carefully so new leaders can succeed, Bridgespan says, 40 percent of leaders surveyed disagreed that they bring “on-board and successfully integrate external leadership hires.”

Finally, it says, it is critical to monitor and improve the process of developing leaders.

Successful nonprofits gather data to ensure they are doing what they set out to do, making progress toward their leadership-development goals, and are continuously adjusting their process based on what they learn.

Yet the survey underscores a great need to improve that tracking and learning, Bridgespan says, with only 29 percent of leaders surveyed saying they regularly collect data to evaluate their progress and understand which leadership-development practices and supports are most  effective.

To be effective in developing leaders,  Bridgespan says, nonprofits should start “with the basics” and improve over time.

Pat’s Place aims to grow

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In 2011, Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center interviewed 420 children referred to it on the suspicion they may have been victims of sexual abuse.

Of those cases, 53 were accepted for prosecution, 36 abusers pled guilty, five abusers were convicted in jury trials, and no abusers were acquitted.

Now, after moving into larger quarters in Dilworth last October, the agency aims to be serving 600 children a year within the next 18 months to two years.

“We’ll be able to see twice as many kids as we did in the old facility,” says Penelope Wilson, director of development and communications for Pat’s Place.

Formed in 2004, the agency operates with an annual budget of $650,000 and a staff of eight people.

Its mission, Wilson says, is to “drive the resolutions of child sexual-abuse cases in Mecklenburg County, provide a safe environment that puts the well-being of the children first, and break the cycle of sexual abuse.”

Pat’s Place conducts medical examinations of children, for example, through a partnership with the Pediatric Resource Center at Levine Children’s Hospital.

Pat’s Place also employs three family advocates who provide resources for families, including mental-health therapy and an alternative place to stay if the perpetrator of abuse still lives in the home.

And it conducts forensic interviews that are designed to provide a safe place for children.

Interviewing the children, all of them referred to the agency either by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department or the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services, are licensed clinical social workers.

And observing the interviews, which are videotaped are representatives from the referring agencies, and from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office, Pediatric Resource Center at Levine Children’s Hospital, and local mental-health providers.

And during the interview, the forensic interviewer takes a break to ask the observers from the other agencies if there is any additional information they need to help serve the child or put together a case for prosecuting the alleged abuser.

The process is designed to resolve child sexual-abuse cases and to keep the children from having to undergo an interview at each agency, the former process, a practice that typically caused them to have to relive the trauma each time they were interviewed.

Pat’s Place also employs a community-outreach family advocate who visits schools, faith-based groups and civic organizations to raise awareness of child sexual abuse and help adults identify signs that a child may have been abused.

To finance its plan to grow, Pat’s Place aims to ramp up its fundraising operation by focusing on raising “leadership” gifts of $1,000 or more and launching an effort to developed “planned gifts” through wills and estate plans.

Serving 600 children a year likely would increase the agency’s annual budget to $1.3 million to $1.4 million, Wilson says.

Pat’s Place also wants to add a mental-health therapist to its staff within a year, she says, a new position that has become increasingly important as children the agency started serving seven years ago now are reaching their mid-teens.

“They’re coming of age where they’re starting to date,” Wilson says. “And when that happens, memories come back and things need to be resolved in a different way, and we want to address that on site instead of referring them to another agency.”

New source for nonprofit news, services


After 21 years of reporting on the charitable world, I have officially launched Philanthropy North Carolina, offering news and media services for nonprofits.

I also have left the Philanthropy Journal, a publication I edited since founding it in 1993.

I left because the Institute for Nonprofits at North Carolina State University, PJ’s home since January 2010, eliminated my job, saying it wants to take PJ in a different direction. A second position at PJ also was eliminated, and the remaining two PJ staffers quit.

Through Philanthropy North Carolina, at www.philnc.org, I will continue to report on nonprofits, foundations, corporate giving, individual philanthropy, fundraising, and trends and best practices in the charitable world.

And I will be providing writing and advisory services for the sector.

I also will continue to write about nonprofits and philanthropy in my regular columns in the Business Journals in the Triangle, Triad and Charlotte areas of North Carolina, and for The NonProfit Times.

So please visit Philanthropy North Carolina, sign up for my free newsletter and RSS feed, send news when you have it, and keep me in mind for writing or advisory work you may need at your organization.

Details about the services I am offering can be found on the Philanthropy North Carolina website.

This is an extraordinary time for charitable world.

The economy has slammed nonprofits and funders alike, and the future is uncertain, if not grim, to say the least.

But tough times also represent an opportunity for change and innovation, and for getting back to basics.

I look forward to continue reporting on the important work all of you do, and working with you to advance our collective mission of serving people and places in need.

Todd Cohen