SEEDing Sustainability™ Summary Report for NYWF

Grantee Partner Feedback and Learnings

Grantee Partner Feedback, May 2015

How has this internal assessment process been helpful to your team?  What have you gained? 

"It was helpful to review with Melinda. Glad to see that we have consensus among staff on both strengths and areas for growth."

- Mercy Center, Associate ED

"This process has been very helpful. We have gained the insights of several lines of staff in identifying the perceived strengths and weaknesses of our organization."

– Urban Upbound Dev. Director

"The process has helped us see where we need to grow while recognizing strengths within the organization.  Being new to Mercy Center this year, I have gained a clearer view of the perspectives staff have shared."

– Mercy Center, ED

"What is most useful is the consulting aspect, which is built into the diagnostic tool and then fortified with a consultation.  The process lets me and our team spit out the problems.  Then SEED organizes and synthesizes it, interprets what it means and makes clear what we should focus on.            It really is a diagnostic, and it’s exceptionally helpful. It's like what we do with clients and their legal problems."

– Start Small Think Big, Founder/ED

"This gave us outside, third-party verification that we’re on the right track, which is actually very helpful at this time when we’ve already been working on internal capacity building." 

– Girls Write Now, Founder/ED

"This has helped in focusing my attention on critical areas for capacity. I never thought about capacity divided up in these ways—it’s a great exercise to go through; seeing these areas of needs is really helpful." 

– STRIVE, Senior Director of Development

"It’s encouraging to see that we’re on the right path, and this process confirms the next steps that are still really critical.  We will share these findings to back-up our requests for funds for further capacity-building, and we will want to use this baseline to track our progress and focus next steps in the future."

– Girls Write Now, ED/Founder

"I see where we need to put more emphasis.  I am planning to seek funding from NYWF to help make the changes that are necessary."

– Mercy Center ED

"This got us all out of the day-to-day weeds. It was one more thing to do, but at the end of the day, everyone appreciates being involved in the decision-making process.  Now everyone understands that we’re going to focus on story telling because of this—it’s a very democratic and transparent process."

– Start Small Think Big, ED/Founder

"Seeing that staff views our leadership in a positive light shows that they have been listening and noting the changes we've made."

– Mercy Center Associate ED

What have you learned from your reports?  What actions do you intend to take as a result?  

"We have learned that sustainability needs to be at the forefront of our strategic decision making."

– Urban Upbound Dev Director

"I’ve learned that our main areas of need are in the story-telling--the communication of the secret sauce and impact. We need to devote more attention to that."

– STRIVE, Senior Director of Development

What's your “take” on doing the quiz and then the deeper assessment as a two-stage process?  

"There was great value in both stages. The first quiz was so easy and quick; no burden, and seeing the quick report was interesting. The first report gave our team more incentive to do the stage 2 assessment. It is definitely useful to do both."

– Urban Upbound, Director of Development

"The first one is easy, quick.  It really motivates me and the whole organization to do the 2nd one.  We would definitely prefer to do both."

Mercy Center

"The comments are helpful to supplement the quantitative data in round 1.  It’s more helpful to do two assessments because a) it breaks down the time commitment for each exercise, and b) it forces people to think—we probably get better data with two different sittings."

STRIVE International

"Just from a logistics standpoint, it was harder for me to rally people twice. It would have been easier to rally them once and put more time into one assessment.  We would just need to set the expectations, that it will take 20 minutes, save your work.   I am very impressed with the visuals, and I really appreciated both reports."

– Start Small Think Big

"It works either way, as a two-part or a one-part tool.  It would streamline the work involved for SEED and for us to just do one. However, for data integrity, it’s helpful to have both rounds.  The first round scores may have influence on our ratings in the 2nd round." 

– Girls Write Now

"Sure we’d be interested. This is helpful as a compass.  Also now that there’s a baseline there’s something for us to build on so it could be a really helpful check-in each year."

– Girls Write Now, Founder/ED

Would you have interest to repeat this annually?

"Definitely – moving from the first step to this one; I think in 3-6 months and one year from now, it will be so different. I’d love to have that opportunity every year to take stock, see our gains and recognize what we need to do next.  It’s easy to do and shows us how to build on what we’ve been doing."

– Mercy Center

"Sure, absolutely.  It forces people to focus on what our needs are, which is inherently good. It tells me where to focus—I can articulate my sense of the problems but being able to categorize them, to put them in groups and prioritize so we know where to focus, that’s incredibly useful.."

– Start Small Think Big

"Absolutely. It will be very interesting to see what effects the changes we make have on sustainability. Doing it yearly will give a good sense to the Exec team on how changes are affecting our performance and peoples’ perception of our performance."

– Urban Upbound

"This gets back to the fact that what we really need is more staff.  It’s really interesting and incredible the way you’ve presented our findings.  It’s easy to absorb and read. Next time I’d want to involve more people whose opinions are reflective of real experience (our graduates on staff). If I had 50k to hire an extra staff I’d be better able to look at where do I want to build capacity.  It’s hard to do something about our growth opportunities now.  I want to do this again but I want money to spend to meet our needs—like hiring a marketing director."

– STRIVE

"I think it’s great; I don’t see any way to improve. Just in our case perhaps the best thing would be to have considered the people answering it a little more carefully.  I asked Eric to figure it out and it wasn’t till I was in the middle of it –in the middle of our event—that I paid attention.  That’s my fault.  If I had paid attention earlier, it would have been great to have a few more board members and one more senior staff person. Maybe you can make sure you speak to a senior person who has approved the participant list."  

– STRIVE, Senior Director of Development

"Having someone (Melinda was wonderful!) to help guide the process - and to fully understand the survey results - was a huge help."

– Mercy Center ED

"I can’t think of anything to improve it.  You have been really “on it,” staying in close communication with me throughout the process, and really respectful of our organization’s time.  The info graphics, numbers and narrative are really easy to digest, and having you walk us through has been clarifying both times.  I’d like to keep in touch with SEED as we grow and think about how we can work together down line." 

– Girls Write Now

"I think SEED's process is effective and relatively simple for non-profits. I would say that the report could include more information regarding the sustainability matrix."

Urban Upbound Assoc ED

How might SEED improve the report or survey process?  

"What is great about the Foundation that this underscores is their intent to give people tools to identify their capacity needs, and to couple that with resources to address the issues.   It would be much less helpful to just help me understand my problems, if resources were not provided to do anything about it.  I also want to emphasize again how helpful the visual reports were to me, combined with the consultation to help tease out the interrelated issues."

– Start Small Think Big

"The ability to do this remotely does not cause a burden on the staff. There is definitely a lot of value in it.  We much appreciate this help to best focus our resources and time in the upcoming year."

– Urban Upbound

"It is unusual for funders to be focused on capacity-building – NYWF is still in the minority of funders thinking along these lines. It is remarkable that NYWF not only supports capacity-building but actually helps evaluate it.  This way the Foundation can assess how much it is helping the grantees, and it really makes a difference for us.  This experience shows that NYWF is interested in making us genuinely sustainable. This level of thought and depth in self-analysis and self-reflection we have been given with SEED– it’s tremendous. We really appreciate it."

– Girls Write Now

"I just adore them. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. They are the ONLY foundation that does things like this. They look at each org they fund in a very holistic way. They provide this kind of capacity assessment resource; they host events to help you network with not only other non-profits but with their own donors for us to cultivate!  We are working to get more women on the board from Citi. It’s endless the ways they access their network and power for our benefit.  With so many funders it’s just transactional.  STRIVE is timing out and I’m so sad I can’t even tell you—not because of the grant but what they give us in all this other stuff; we feel so supported by them. They are a partner, a true partner. I feel I can call them and say, “we’re struggling with X.” I’d have never participated in this self-assessment if it had been for another foundation. I’d be afraid that the numbers would make us look really bad.  They’re doing this to help us. I appreciate it and mean this from the heart."

– STRIVE

"We are so glad for this opportunity.  It shows where focused capacity building will yield a good result, based on what we have already done and what this affirms we are ready for next.  That is very meaningful to us."

– Mercy Center

Is there anything you would specifically like to communicate to NYWF about this experience?

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