Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Part 3: Achieving the Full Benefits of Meeting Standards

This three-part series recounts one organization’s journey to meet the Accountability Standards through integrating their entire organization. The Charities Review Council’s Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson sat down with Ekta Prakash, Executive Director of CAPI, an organization working to guide refugees and immigrants in the journey toward self-determination and social equality.

How Integrating Meeting Standards Improved Return on Mission
Part 3 of a 3 part series inspired by CAPI’s journey to Meet Standards
By Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson

The language of love, or the language of Return on Investment in this case, has a real ring to it. In the nonprofit sector where “I’ll show you the money if you show me the impact” is the growing trend, Return on Mission (ROM) is a huge issue.

The million dollar questions: How is what we are spending our time and resources on impacting our mission? Does accountability and transparency play a serious role in ROM or is it a box you check for a favored funder, donor, or board member?

Ekta took me to happy town when she started talking about how the Accountability Wizard was changing what CAPI’s clients expected from the organization (there it is - Return on Mission, folks). What do the Standards mean for program outcomes, and do they improve the Return on Mission?

After including staff and board in the journey to Meet Standards and being dedicated to internal accountability and transparency, Ekta shared one more exciting jewel the ROM, the “SO WHAT”.

“By including staff in the Accountability Wizard review process and increasing internal transparency, having more authentic public transparency was a natural next step. Completing the review in an inclusive way increased our organization’s fluency in the sector standards and in our ability to share the CAPI story with the public.”

By integrating staff and board into the review process and using it as a teaching tool, CAPI had a transformative experience. This is how the Standards are felt at the day-to-day operations level of an organization.

“Ultimately, we are building a brand of accountability and transparency that is communicated at all levels of the organization,” Ekta said. “We can translate it to our funders and our public in the course of doing business. This has affected the community’s expectations of our organization.”  

This greater internal capacity shifted the focus of programming for CAPI. Ekta shared that “by being more accountable to those who use our services it is more of an exchange with them.  They have greater expectations of us and we have greater expectations for them.”  (This is known as a positive feedback loop of greater expectations, a wonderful thing).

“This leads to a future of hope and highly respectful and dignifying experiences for everyone - staff, clients, and board,” she said. 

ROM Spotlight!
In 2012, CAPI joined the Garden Gleaning Project as one of their new partnering food shelf agencies and expanded their Return on Mission Approach. CAPI’s food shelf, located in the Sabathani Center, is the state’s only Asian specific food shelf – offering specific foods and “linguistic accessibility” for Southeast Asian families. Each individual that is gardening a plot at one of CAPI’s gardens is able to grow more fresh food for themselves and their families. In return for being able to use the land, CAPI requests that each individual make a small donation to the CAPI food shelf once a month and assists gardeners in transporting their fresh produce donations to the CAPI food shelf. Read more at http://gardengleaning.org/2012/07/17/capi-community-gardens-and-block-party/

Part 1: Intentionally Including Board & Staff in the Review Process is the Golden Ticket
Part 2: How Meeting Standards Boosts Internal Accountability and Transparency

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