We are growing. Four years ago, we had 65 staff and a $5.5M budget. In a few months, we will have about 110 staff and a budget of almost $11M. Of course, we are doing this responsibly and carefully as we meet the needs of the community. At the same time, our environment is quickly changing – technology, government regulations and funding, competition, and the cost of living in the Bay Area. All of these challenges can pull an organization in many different directions, and in light of our housing market and the cost of living, they put added pressures on those we serve, particularly when costs outstrip wages.
Alignment with our mission and core values is key to dealing with these challenges. Alignment allows us the power to create a culture of shared purpose. By integrating our services, leadership, processes, and direction, alignment produces consistent growth and social impact to those we serve – the poor and marginalized.
In his book, The Power of Alignment, How Great Companies Stay Centered and Accomplish Extraordinary Things, George Labovitz says that “alignment is a noun and a verb.” A noun being the integration of systems and processes to address the changes and the verb as a set of actions of new skills and management competences to be relevant and achieve maximum social impact.
This means that what worked in the past may not work going forward. Labovitz says that hierarchy and top down structure to maintain control may now be a liability and reduce the ability to respond to change in a rapid and focused way. Instead he says that distributive leadership by sharing authority, information, and knowledge throughout an organization is critical. “The old linear approach has given way to one of simultaneity or alignment.”
Imagine working for an organization where everyone – staff and volunteers – understands our mission, purpose, goals, strategy, our clients we serve – and then works toward meeting those needs. That is alignment – a noun and a verb.
Volunteers are a huge value to a nonprofit organization. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, in 2015 about 63 million Americans gave 8 billion hours of volunteer service worth $193 billion. Volunteers serve on the board of directors, assist in delivering services to clients, bring their expertise in law, health care, social services, administration, fund raising, human resources, and more. They also bring their energy and passion, their fresh perspective and opinions on issues, their love and respect for humanity, their willingness to work together, and their determination to make a difference in the world.
This is very evident when you meet two of our super volunteers – Janet Riley and Annie Banbury.
Janet sits on our Engagement Committee, which helps with our fundraising efforts. She also assists with our Refugee Resettlement Program working directly with our Burmese and Afghani families. She’s also active at her parish in Orinda (Santa Maria) with the Pastoral Council, Social Justice, Liturgy, and Youth Ministry. For many years, she has been involved in the Garden Club in Orinda and the Lamorinda Adult Respite Center. Oh by the way, she’s a retired tax attorney. For all of her incredible work, she’s being awarded with the Citizen of the Year 2017 by the Orinda Association and The Orinda Community Foundation.
Annie has been with us for over two years and like Janet, she does so many things. For several months, she stepped in and ran our volunteer program and took the lead with our annual holiday program. She answers the phone at our front desk, handling hundreds of calls from clients needing help with housing and utility assistance. She listens to stories of people who face food insecurity, of a senior with multiple sclerosis about to become homeless, of people in their apartments for over twenty years now being evicted due to market forces. Annie said if she had one wish, it would be to ease the suffering and the burden of housing of so many people. Annie has two daughters and the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. One day each week and before school they volunteer to feed the homeless.
Pope Francis said that “mercy gets its hands dirty and that mercy touches, it gets involved, it gets caught up with others, and it gets personal.” Janet and Annie are living examples of what Pope Francis describes as Mercy. Thank you Janet and Annie for all that you do.