By Olga Heifets
Year one of SVP’s engagement with newest Investee Voices for Children CASA, whose mission is to “provide trained volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in Boulder County,” was all about “…discovery. The SVP process has helped us get to know ourselves better,” reflects Executive Director Nia Wassink. “SVP goes deeper than other consultants can, challenging us to go beyond business as usual.”
An early example happened this past Fall, when SVP Lead Partner Meredith Spear saw an opportunity for improved communication. With her outside perspective, Meredith was able to identify the myriad of strengths present among VCF CASA board and staff. And yet, meetings where differing opinions were expressed felt strained and contentious, rather than productive. Meredith brought on partner Amy Maranowicz to facilitate a board retreat.
To prepare for the retreat, board members were asked to complete a survey reflecting on the often tough conversations required at VCF CASA board meetings. The results revealed many felt their perspective wasn’t welcome. To shift the culture, Amy led a conversation meant to align the group back around the mission, and elevate the difficult conversations away from the individual players. In the time since, this re-framing has helped shift the environment created, and elicited productive discussions supporting Voices for Children CASA’s work.
“Repeatedly, SVP asks us to question whether we’re serving our mission best,” says Nia, continuing, “You spend more time, go deeper and help clarify how we can adjust than other consultants can.”
Another example of an SVP effort that’s borne results is budgeting. Two factions saw benefit in approaching the process differently, so to break the stalemate Meredith brought SVP partner John McCorvie in to offer an outside perspective. Pairing his financial expertise with an impartial take on the challenge at hand, John was able to tie budgeting back to mission and organizational goals for 2016. These big picture links helped the Board shift perspective and pass a budget five days later. “We were able to pull up out of the minutia and change how we saw this process. He gave us some different language around options for budgeting we would have never reached ourselves.”
These shifts represent important foundational capacity for the organization going forward. A more cohesive, better aligned board powering the work helps position Voices for Children CASA for success. SVP is excited to continue our partnership, and tackle more in the year ahead. “Having Partners involved has been so much more valuable than a grant alone – we’ve learned so much about our organization,” says Nia, “Nowhere else can you hire a consultant who can gather those data points, then evaluate and elevate the work to a higher level.”