Benevolence Farm to serve women out of prison

By Todd Cohen

CARRBORO, N.C. — In 2012, 2,647 women were released from North Carolina prisons.

And with roughly 60 percent of women who are released from U.S. prisons rearrested, and nearly a third of them returned to prison within three years, women who get out of prison can use help to succeed on the outside.

“Typically they have very low skills, very poor employment history, a lack of education and minimal social support,” says Tanya Jisa, a social worker who lives in Carrboro and has worked at a juvenile detention center in Ohio, with addicted pregnant women in Atlanta, and on continuing medical education at Duke University.

Now, Jisa is creating Benevolence Farm, a working farm in Alamance County that will house and employ 12 women for up to two years after release from any of the state’s six prisons for women.

With 11 acres donated by an Alabama businessman who received the land in a court settlement, Jisa is trying to raise $450,000 in contributions to help secure a $600,000 no-interest loan from the N.C. Housing Finance Agency to build a residence and farm buildings totaling 6,000 square feet.

She already has raised nearly $200,000, including $60,000 needed to help secure the loan, and hopes to open the farm in 2015.

Thanks to Jen Snider and her partner, Erin Kimrey, who live in Hillsborough, the Arizona-based Snider Family Charitable Fund has provided $20,000 in seed money, another $120,000 to fund Jisa’s position and develop a strategic plan, and another $50,000 this year, half of it in the form of a matching grant designed to generate other contributions.

Consultant Ruth Peebles of The INS Group in Raleigh worked with Benevolence Farm to develop the strategic plan.

Benevolence Farm also raised $10,500 in October at a Second Chance Dine and Dance at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw.

The nonprofit will work with reentry officials, chaplains and social workers at the state Department of Public Safety to identify potential candidates, then meet with them and give them the opportunity to visit the Farm and apply for admission.

The organization is targeting women with sentences of five years or more, typically for felonies, who have the “most difficulties finding success after prison,” Jisa says. “Those are the women we want to reach out to and help.”

Benevolence Farm will pay the women a wage for working on the farm, which mainly will grow vegetables, and charge them for room and board, and for programs that will focus on teaching financial literacy, job readiness, family reunification, marketing and entrepreneurship.

The Farm also will set aside some of the wages to create savings accounts for residents.

In addition to Jisa, a farm manager and possibly a case manager and house manager, the Farm expects to work with student interns from Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro, N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro, Elon University in Elon and UNC-Chapel Hill.

And it will partner with nonprofits and other agencies that can provide a broad range of social and legal services, as well as educational classes.

Women leaving prison typically have what state officials characterize as a “questionable home plan,” Jisa says.

“We aim to offer them stable housing and gainful employment,” she says.

HandyCapable puts people with disabilities to work

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Carl, a man in his mid-30s, has a severe case of cerebral palsy, a condition that makes it difficult for him to control the use of his arms, legs and parts of his speech.

In his job as a volunteer computer technician, he must be lifted from his electric-powered wheelchair onto a floor mat, where he lies using a headpointer to load software onto refurbished computers and to work as his employer’s webmaster.

His employer is HandyCapable Network, a Greensboro nonprofit that has refurbished over 3,500 computers since it was formed in 2006 to provide computer training for people with developmental disabilities.

Operating with an annual budget of $180,000 and a staff of two people working full-time and three working part-time, the agency works with eight volunteer “HandyTechs” who refurbish used and donated computers that HandyCapable distributes to low-income families and to nonprofits, churches and other groups.

In 2012, with those volunteers contributing over 4,000 hours, HandyCapable placed nearly 500 refurbished computers with low-income families, and refurbished another 400 that were awaiting distribution.

HandyCapable, for example, has distributed over 1,100 computers to the homes of children who are students in six elementary and middle schools  in Guilford County.

Each family that gets a computer also takes part in a 45-minute training session from HandyCapable on how to hook up their computer, use educational software, anti-virus software and open-source office software that is loaded into the computer, and understand internet safety.

HandyCapable was founded by Barbara Davis, who serves as executive director.

In 2000, after managing group homes for people with developmental disabilities, she became “disillusioned and a little sad” that group homes had lost their focus on their clients and had become “more about the money” and about “government regulations in a corporate-like atmosphere,” Davis says.

“It was not leading people with developmental disabilities to become productive members of society,” she says.

Having begun at that time to learn about computers herself, she contracted with The Arc of North Carolina to develop four computer learning centers in the Triad that would provide computer training for people with developmental disabilities.

In addition to four centers she got started at nonprofits and churches in Burlington, Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem, Davis started seven other centers at organizations that served low-income people, at-risk kids and senior citizens.

And needing computers for the center, she looked for donated and used computers, learned how to fix them, and began to teach people with disabilities how to fix them.

So when her contract with The Arc ended, she founded HandyCapable.

HandyCapable counts on grants and donations from individuals, foundations and corporations for 75 percent of its revenue, and generates the remainder through earned income.

The Weaver Foundation and the Mary Lynn Richardson Foundation made grants of $7,500 and $5,000, respectively, making it possible for HandyCapable to distribute over 200 computers to low-income families for the most recent holiday season.

And HandyCapable generates revenue from dismantling unusable computers and selling their parts to Powerhouse Recycling in Salisbury.

“We give people with disabilities a place where they can show their abilities,” Davis says, “and find fulfilling work in the community.”

UNC Center focuses on global understanding

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — In Wake County, which has over 900,000 residents and is the second-most-populous county in North Carolina, 12 percent of the population is foreign-born, a segment of the community that has grown 62 percent since 2000.

Fifteen percent of the population age five and older speak a language other than English. And foreign companies employ nearly 20,000 people in the county, where exports total over $2.2 billion a year and imports total over $1 billion.

Those are just a few facts from an interactive “heat map” developed by the Center for International Understanding in partnership with SAS Institute in Cary that in features 53 “data points” that show education, demographic and economic information for each of the state’s 100 counties.

The Raleigh-based Center hopes the map will help lawmakers, government officials, policymakers, economic developers, educators, civic leaders and others better understand the state’s global connections and help take advantage of opportunities in the global marketplace.

“From one end of the state to the other, we are active in the world in our education systems and our businesses, and we are being impacted and are taking advantage of the world,” says Adam Hartzell, the Center’s executive director. “We hope the next part of the story is how can we start to take that story and be pro-active about taking advantage of the opportunities that a globally-engaged state could have.”

Formed in 1979, the Center is an arm of the Chapel Hill-based General Administration of the University of North Carolina system.

It operates with a staff of six people working full-time, plus independent contractors and part-time employees and interns, and an annual budget of $1.3 million.

State funds account for about 30 percent of its budget, with a charitable arm of the Center known as the Council raising contributed dollars that represent another 20 percent to 25 percent, and program fees and other earned income accounting for the remainder.

To advance its mission of “promoting awareness, expanding understanding, and empowering action through global education,” the Center provides a handful of programs that focus on schools, policy leaders or communities in the state with growing Latino populations, and that connect public policy, business and education.

The Center has helped 27 schools across the state launch programs in Chinese language and culture that include guest teachers from China, for example, and it has taken 650 teachers for study abroad.

The Center also works to help educate political leaders throughout the state better understand best practices throughout the world on key policy issues.

The Center in 2010 took a delegation of state lawmakers and other leaders to Europe for two weeks to learn about clean-energy practices and policies, and another group to China last year to look at trade opportunities for the state, and will host another trip to China this year to look at developing ties in the health-care industry.

And it will take teachers to India in 2013.

The Center also provides strategic advice on statewide issues involving policy, business and education.

And since 1998, the Center has taken nearly 800 leaders from throughout the state to Mexico as part of an effort to help them better understand immigration issues and to develop programs to better integrate Latino immigrants into North Carolina communities.

A separate trip to Mexico in 2009 to study economic and educational ties with North Carolina was the catalyst for discussions that led to development of the global heat map.

“It’s a way to start to measure how communities are taking advantage of global opportunities,” Hartzell says, “and be able to identify some best practices others can evaluate.”

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.

Arts are big business, study says

Despite a slight drop in audience spending because of the economic downturn, the nonprofit arts-and-culture industry remains an economic engine that will be a key force in the economy’s recovery, a new study says.

The industry fueled $135.2 billion of economic activity throughout the U.S. in 2010, including $61.1 billion by nonprofit arts-and-culture groups and another $74.1 billion in event-related spending by their audiences, says Arts & Economic Prosperity IV, the fourth study by Americans for the Arts of the industry’s economic impact.

That activity supports 4.1 million full-time jobs and generates $22.3 billion a year in revenue to local, state and federal governments, over five-and-half times their combined $4 billion in arts allocations, says the study, which includes customized findings on 182 regions representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In North Carolina, the nonprofit arts-and-culture industry drives $1.2 billion in direct economic activity, supporting the equivalent of over 43,600 full-time jobs and generating $119 million in revenue for local and state governments.

Arts and culture groups are “resilient and entrepreneurial businesses,” the study says. “They employ people locally, purchase goods and services within the community, and market and promote their regions.”

The collapse of the economy “erased the gains made during the pre-recession years” and left 2010 spending on the arts trailing 2005 levels by 3 percent, the study says.

The recession’s biggest impact on the arts was on attendance and audience spending, it says.

“Yet even in a down economy, some communities saw an increase in their arts spending and employment,” it says. “As the economy rebounds, the arts are well poised for growth.”

Arts and culture groups also generate additional event-related spending by audiences that benefits local economies such as for parking, dining and shopping, the study says.

Based on 151,802 audience surveys, the typical person attending an arts event spends $24.60 per person per event in addition to the cost of admission.

And 32 percent of people attending arts events live outside the county in which the event takes place, spending $39.96 related to the event, compared to $17.42 spent by local residents who attend those events.

“A vibrant arts community not only keeps residents and their discretionary spending close to home, but it also attracts visitors who spend money and help local businesses thrive,” the study says.

“America’s arts industry is not only resilient in times of economic uncertainty, but it also a key component to our nation’s economic recovery and future prosperity,” it says. “Business and elected leaders need not feel that a choice must be made between arts funding and economic prosperity. This study proves that they can choose both. Nationally as well as locally, the arts mean business.”

North Carolina counties

The national report includes findings on the economic impact of arts and culture on 17 local communities in North Carolina. Among them:

  • In Mecklenburg County, the arts industry generates nearly $202.8 million in annual economic activity, 6,240 full-time jobs and $18.1 million in revenue for local and state government. The industry also fuels over $101.2 million in event-related spending in the county, with cultural audiences spending $30.72 per person, including $41.58 spent by people from outside the county who attend events in the county, and $23.54 by county residents attending those vents.
  • In Wake County, the arts industry generates $166.2 million in annual economic activity, 6,601 jobs and nearly $15.9 million in revenue for local and state government. The industry also fuels $78.4 million in event-related spending in the county, with cultural audiences spending $17.98 per person, including $36.09 by people from outside the county and $13.43 by county residents.
  • In Forsyth County, the nonprofit arts-and-culture industry fuels nearly $136.6 million in direct economic activity, 4,769 jobs and over $13.7 million in revenue for local and state government. The industry also stimulates over $65.9 million in spending related to arts events in the county, with cultural audiences spending $26.64 per person on costs related to events, including $49.97 spent by people from outside the county who attend events in the county, and $16.15 spent by county residents attending those events.
  • In Guilford County, the arts industry generates over $118 million in direct economic activity, 4,269 jobs and nearly $16.7 million in revenue for local and state government. The industry also fuels over $71.7 million in event-related spending in the county, with cultural audiences spending $19.45 per person, including $27.87 spent by people from outside the county who attend events in the county, and $16.43 spent by county residents attending those events.
  • In Durham County, the arts industry generates $125.5 million in annual economic activity, 4,550 jobs and over $11.4 million in revenue for local and state government. The industry also fuels $51.4 million in event-related spending, with cultural audiences spending $28.16 per person, including $39.33 by people from outside the county, and $14.59 by county residents.


Nonprofits hiring from outside sector

Most nonprofits over the past five years hired executives from outside the nonprofit world, a new study says.

Among over 500 U.S. nonprofits surveyed by The Alexander Group, a search firm, 60.6 percent hired executives from outside the sector, says the 2012 Survey of Hiring Trends at nonprofits.

Among nonprofits that hired outside the sector, 84.2 percent said their new executives adjusted extremely well to the nonprofit world

And among nonprofits that hired outside the sector and whose executives adjusted extremely well to the nonprofit world, 52.6 percent reported only minor issues in adjusting to the nonprofit environment, while 31.6 percent reported no issues in adjusting.

Still, hiring executives were split evenly on whether candidates’ lack of previous nonprofit experience was a factor in their hiring decision.

“The survey confirms our belief that the boundaries between for-profit and not-for-profit continues to blur and opportunities to move between sectors will continue to increase,” Jane Howze, manager director of The Alexander Group, says in a statement.

Nonprofit hiring executives also placed heavy emphasis on candidates’ experience in working with boards of directors, and on compensation, experience as a nonprofit’s public face, and managerial experience, the study says.

It also says 56.7 percent of nonprofits surveyed hired a chief development officer during the last five years, and 45 percent hired a chief financial officer or chief marketing officer, or both.

“While fundraising has always been critical to the survival of not-for-profits,” Howze says, “the challenging economy created an even more competitive fundraising environment, further highlighting the need for organizations to recruit strong development professionals.”