Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Read Dorothy Norrris-Tirrell’s (2000) article (edited by Kenneth G. Koziol)(attached). Discuss the f - Study Help
  

Read Dorothy Norrris-Tirrell’s (2000) article (edited by Kenneth G. Koziol)(attached). Discuss the following questions:

Who (the executive director or the board of directors) bears responsibility for the agency’s future?
As executive director, what are Marcel’s alternatives at this point?
Did Marcel’s lack of administrative experience in the nonprofit arena impact her effectiveness?
What skills would an effective executive director need in order to handle this situation?

Note: You are expected to make one initial post and reply to the posting of at least two other students
Each original response to the questions for the week must be at least 80 words long and specifically reference some concept or content reference in the coursework for the week.
Peer responses must be at least 50 words long and one or more of these types: 1) agreement with extension, 2) an alternative perspective with rationale, or a 3) respectful challenge with counter argument.
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NONPROFIT MANAGEMENT
CASE COLLECTION

SALVATION OR SOOTHSAYING:
STRATEGIC PLANNING AT YOUTH HAVEN, INC.

Dorothy Norrris-Tirrell

Edited by Kenneth G. Koziol

Institute for Nonprofit Organization Management
College of Professional Studies

University of San Francisco
2130 Fulton Street

San Francisco, CA 94117-1047

Copyright © 2000, University of San Francisco
Permission granted to purchaser only to reproduce for classroom use.

Unauthorized duplication of copyrighted material is a violation of federal law.

CS-0134

SALVATION OR SOOTHSAYING:
STRATEGIC PLANNING AT YOUTH HAVEN, INC.

Case Abstract

Prompted by receipt of a large bequest, the board and staff of a small
nonprofit agency were several months into a strategic planning process
to decide how to spend the money. The executive director worries
whether strategic planning is putting the agency on the road to secure
viability or predicting its not-to-distant demise.

PLEASE NOTE: The material contained in this case does not
necessarily represent actual people or conditions.

SALVATION OR SOOTHSAYING:
STRATEGIC PLANNING AT YOUTH HAVEN, INC.

Youth Haven, Inc. had provided group home services for over 25 years before Marcel Johnson
became the agency’s first professional executive director. Now having been with Youth Haven for five
years, Marcel looked back at her struggles to transform the agency from a small volunteer run
organization to a competitor in the growing nonprofit market. Prompted by receipt of a large bequest,
the board and staff of the small agency were currently several months into a strategic planning process
to decide how to spend the money. Marcel now worried whether strategic planning was putting the
agency on the road to secure viability or predicting the not-to-distant demise of Youth Haven.

Background

The Junior League founded Youth Haven thirty years ago as an independent private, nonprofit
agency when the local Community Services Council identified the need for a group home setting for
emotionally disturbed young boys. The Junior League women took the cause very seriously and
developed an innovative short-term residential treatment program built around the use of volunteers.
Interested members served as the agency’s board of directors handling all of the day-to-day operations
of the agency from approving expenditures and fundraising to hiring houseparents and recruiting
volunteers.

Youth Haven’s goal was to provide emotional care and support for the boys, to help them
develop better coping and peer skills and, ultimately, to reunite them with their parental or guardian
families. The treatment approach centered on the roles of the salaried houseparents and volunteer
professional counselors recruited to work with the boys on an individual basis.

The agency served a specific target population of “troubled” boys, aged six to twelve,
experiencing severe behavioral problems such as antisocial or defiant behavior, lack of respect for
authority or nonaggressive conduct disorders. The boys represented a group that often “fell through the
cracks” in the social welfare system and had no place to go for help. The agency began with one house
and a set of houseparents serving six boys. When the agency received a second house from a
benefactor, it was used to serve an additional six boys. Still, a list of boys awaited admission to Youth
Haven. The agency continued with two full houses serving twelve boys at a time, two sets of
houseparents as the only paid staff, and the volunteer board handling agency operational functions until
five years ago.

At that time, private nonprofit agencies were beginning to feel the effects of growing competition
for the scarce funds available. Several small agencies that provided group home services, including
Youth Haven, met to discuss mechanisms for creating more efficient service provision and a continuum
of care for their target populations. Eventually, a merger of the agencies was proposed, supported by
the United Way’s promise of funding. All of the initially involved agencies combined to create a new
agency, except Youth Haven. The new agency was

Norris-Tirrell – Salvation
Page 2

funded immediately by the United Way, the state and the county, and quickly became a key player in
the not-for-profit community.

The board of Youth Haven argued that their younger target population would not be served by
the new agency and, therefore, they did not join in the merger. Nevertheless, Youth Haven also
requested and received funding as a new United Way agency. Originally financed solely through the
fundraising efforts of its board (for example, balls, barbecues and personal requests), Youth Haven now
received monies from three sources each representing a third of its annual operating budget: 1) board
sponsored special events, 2) annual allocation from the United Way, and 3) grants and contracts from
the county government and the State Health and Human Services Department.

To administer the additional paperwork demands from both United Way and government
requirements, the board decided to hire a salaried professional administrator. After interviewing dozens
of applicants, the board selected Marcel Johnson, a Junior League member with fifteen years
experience as a manager with a local utility company. Although she had never been an employee of a
nonprofit organization, Marcel had volunteered with various agencies and served on numerous boards.
She hoped to combine her business sector skills and her working knowledge of nonprofit governance to
help the agency grow. Her starting annual salary was $55,000.00 including benefits.

Marcel’s first goals as executive director were at the urging of the United Way, one of Youth
Haven’s key funders. The first goal was to change the composition of the 24-person board of directors
from exclusively nonworking Caucasian women to include business and professional individuals with a
more diverse ethnic and gender mix. This change was a four-year process that appeared to be
successful. New members recruited with business skills useful to the agency (for example, accounting,
marketing, banking expertise) and community connections were still willing to pitch in with “chores” at
the houses, such as painting or plumbing repair.

Marcel’s second goal was to assure the consistent professional treatment of the clients, an issue
of continual importance to funding and licensing agencies. Other agencies providing similar services in
the area employed staff counselors and a clinical supervisor, offered therapy services to the entire client
family rather than just the child in care, and provided follow-up services at the child’s discharge from the
program. Achieving this goal was more difficult because it involved a change in an original core
emphasis of the agency, that of using professional clinicians and community members as volunteers. It
also required new expenditures from which no new revenues would be directly received. As a first
step, board members allocated funds to contractually hire a psychologist to conduct initial interviews,
establish treatment plans, hold weekly staffings with the houseparents, and review client charts regularly.
However, the psychologist personally provided therapy services only to those clients who could pay her
fees (either personally or through third party sources), leaving most the agency’s clients with volunteer
counselors. Family therapy services and follow-up care remained unaddressed.

By Marcel’s fourth year as executive director, Youth Haven’s annual operating budget had
grown to a little over $200,000. However, agency revenues had not increased significantly, resulting in

Norris-Tirrell – Salvation
Page 3

a deficit of $20,000. The board decided to use reserve fund monies to cover the deficit rather than cut
the agency’s budget.

Strategic Planning at Youth Haven

Last year, the agency received a large monetary gift explicitly designating the purchase of
another house to serve additional boys. However, Marcel expressed her concern to the board that
expansion of the program may not be appropriate at this time for two major reasons. First, the
professional content of the program was still considered weak by many in the community. Second,
generating sufficient revenues remained a problem for the agency, coupled with the knowledge that new
funding for nonprofit programs was emphasizing client groups not served by Youth Haven such as
children with drug abuse or violent behavior problems.

After several months of discussion with no consensus reached concerning how to spend the
bequest, Marcel presented the idea of hiring the local university at a nominal fee to assist the board in
developing a strategic plan for the agency. Marcel hoped that a strategic planning process would force
board members to face the realities confronting the agency and to plan proactively for the future.
Personally, Marcel thought the agency should broaden its client population to include boys with
problems that coincided with the current interests of funders and implement appropriate new programs.

As a part of the planning process, the board asked the team of university consultants to conduct
an environmental assessment that included five components: 1) interviews with key funding and
program personnel to learn their perception of Youth Haven and of emerging local and national youth
service needs; 2) a client satisfaction survey to evaluate program services and outcomes from the parent
or guardian’s perspective; 3) a review of professional and academic research related to residential
treatment programs for youth; 4) identification of social and demographic indicators of the potential
need for residential treatment programs for youth during the coming decade; and 5) a listing of youth
service agencies in the area, particularly those already providing residential care services. The findings
of the environmental assessment outlined the strengths/weaknesses and opportunities/threats of the
agency and its program. The presentation of the findings to the board and staff was followed by a series
of workshops to develop a mission statement, a vision, and strategies for realizing the vision.

After several meetings, the board adopted the following mission statement: To help potentially
difficult boys and their families through early intervention in a homelike counseling program.
The agency leaders then began to discuss their future plans in terms of three alternatives: adding a new
house thereby increasing the number of clients served; expanding and strengthening the scope of their
treatment program; or maintaining the existing program.

Marcel participated in this process as requested and was quite outspoken in reinforcing the
crucial points identified by the environmental assessment:

· Many influential people in government and funding agencies important to Youth Haven
questioned the effectiveness of the current treatment program.

Norris-Tirrell – Salvation
Page 4

· The “hot” funding issues focused on a population that Youth Haven did not serve making
the acquisition of new monies difficult.

· The agency was operating with a deficit budget (expenditures continue to increase [even
without staff raises] while revenues remain steady).

· The United Way had just completed its own strategic planning process that, among other
things, identified new criteria for funding agencies emphasizing efficiency and productivity
measures (and unfortunately, Youth Haven was rumored to be on the hit list for
discontinuation of funding).

Nevertheless as board members worked diligently to develop their shared vision, it was the
status quo agency that emerged. Board members felt trapped in a “catch-22” situation–the agency
needed additional funding to provide new treatment services (such as family therapy and follow-up care)
and yet expanded treatment required money for implementation. Marcel understood all too intimately
the problems the agency faced with the current treatment program and the tight funding environment; yet
if the agency lost United Way funding, their reserve funds would be quickly spent. Marcel was
beginning to wonder what alternatives were left to her agency.

Norris-Tirrell – Salvation
Page 5

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. Was strategic planning the appropriate management technique for Youth Haven given the
agency’s funding situation?

2. Who (the executive director or the board of directors) bears responsibility for the agency’s
future?

3. As executive director, what are Marcel’s alternatives at this point?

4. Did Marcel’s lack of administrative experience in the nonprofit arena impact her effectiveness?
What skills would an effective executive director need to handle this situation?

Dorothy Norrris-Tirrell
Assistant Professor

Political Science
University of Memphis

Norris-Tirrell – Salvation
Teaching Notes Page 1

TEACHING NOTES

Youth Haven faced several problems that are common to nonprofit organizations. However, when
these problems occur simultaneously organizational crisis can result. For this agency, the lack of new
resources was a growing problem caused by legitimacy issues and a tightening and narrowing funding
environment. While Youth Haven’s decision makers had no direct control over the amount of funds
available, the number of agencies competing for those funds, or the interests of funders, they did have
opportunities to influence the perceptions of those individuals key to funding allocation determinations.
In this case, the agency had knowledge of questionable perceptions from United Way advisors and
from the findings of the strategic plan’s environmental assessment. The agency’s inability to satisfactorily
answer the questions of critical stakeholders (funding and licensing organizations), to alter the program
to conform to stakeholder expectations (add scope to the treatment program) or to adapt the program
to new trends (alter the client population) led to a perception of inadequacy and reduced opportunity
for funds.

1. Was strategic planning the appropriate management technique for Youth Haven given
the agency’s situation? Please explain.

While an influx of new funds would have temporarily kept the agency from reaching a crisis
point, strategic planning did offer a process for Youth Haven’s decision makers to examine
critically the organization and set goals. Unfortunately, the board members were unable to
move beyond the status quo. They laid out a narrow list of alternatives: expand the program by
adding another house to serve more clients, expand the scope of the program (add to the
treatment component but serve the same number of clients), or keep the status quo. Marcel
was contemplating two additional alternatives: merger or termination. Another alternative
would be downsizing the agency’s staff, perhaps revisiting the agency’s original focus in using a
mix of salaried and volunteer professional staff. Does an agency that serves twelve clients at a
time really need a full-time salaried executive director? Perhaps the push five years ago to
professionalize the small agency was not appropriate and, in retrospect, certainly not cost-
efficient.

2. Who (the executive director or the board of directors) bears responsibility for the
agency’s future?

This question addresses the issue of leadership for the agency. A traditional view argues that
the board takes the leadership role while the executive director simply carries out the board’s
decisions. Reality offers a different perspective emphasizing leadership as a collective function
shared by the volunteer board and executive staff. Therefore, in looking to an agency’s future,
both share some level responsibility.

Norris – Salvation
Teaching Notes Page 2

3. As executive director, what are Marcel’s alternatives at this point?

Marcel does have a self-interested position. If the agency goes under, she will lose her job and
her reputation as an effective administrator will suffer. But her alternatives at this point are
limited. She does not have the sole authority to make decisions for the agency. Therefore, she
must convince the board to take active responsibility for their actions or lack of them. Pointedly
telling them of her two worst case scenario options–merger or termination–might be enough.
Other actors that might strengthen her position for evolving the agency include the consultant
team or the United Way.

If the board will not take a more proactive path, then to salvage her career Marcel could
attempt to move the agency to merger, perhaps with the assistance of the United Way and the
previously merged organization.

4. Did Marcel’s lack of administrative experience in the nonprofit arena impact her
effectiveness? What skills would an effective executive director need to handle this
situation?

The job of the nonprofit executive director is one of complexity and uncertainty. It requires
expertise in typical managerial skills but emphasizes as well political acuity, volunteer relations
and group processes. Marcel’s novice status as a nonprofit manager may indeed have made
her less effective in the role. After she took the position, she was immediately hit with demands
for major changes in the agency: diversification of the board and professionalization of the
treatment approach. At the same time, funding trends were evolving and competition for funds
was increasing. While the executive role at Youth Haven would have been challenging for
anyone, an experienced nonprofit executive may have been able to balance the demands with
greater success.

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