Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Listening and Learning

What a privilege it is to take a month or two to stand back and listen. That’s what we’ve been doing this winter…listening. A key part, if not the most important part, of our strategic planning process is to listen and “discover” what our stakeholders think about Senior Citizen Services both today and tomorrow. It has been reassuring to learn what a tremendous impact we are making for our seniors and their caregivers, but frustrating that we cannot do more. I have been struck by the broad support we have from so many wonderful people and entities, from individual donors, family foundations, governmental entities, nonprofit umbrella groups, and many more. Our supporters think we are continuing to improve and make a greater impact as well!

Cathy Brink of Brink*Matheney Consulting has been facilitating our process (by the way she is completely donating her time and won’t even let us pay for her lunch!). Cathy asked us to summarize our “learnings” to date last week and I thought I’d share some of them:
· Needs: SCS seniors are satisfied with our services and grateful for the various programs that help them. There is a greater need to help seniors awaiting services (home repairs and meals). There is greater need to help seniors and their caregivers access and coordinate overall services. There is a greater to help seniors with transportation.
· Relationships: Key stakeholders regard SCS highly. Key stakeholders seem to be pleased with SCS’ progress, with our dedication and services to our seniors, and with our impact. More emphasis should be placed on SCS leadership cultivating additional donors, funders and leaders. A number of key stakeholders (especially corporate) did not respond to requests for strategic planning input, revealing a potential relationship deficit as well.
· Clarity: Many of our stakeholders are not clear on what SCS does, our mission, our programs, our impact, etc. There is a general recognition that progress has been made with regard to marketing, but there appears to be a lot more to do. It is also important to note that most interviewees did not necessarily want more mail or email, but perhaps more clear messaging.
· Meals On Wheels Atlanta: Private donors, corporate donors and foundations are most interested in meals on wheels. There is generally positive support for SCS expanding its meals on wheels program outside of its current geographic focus, especially if additional resources followed.
· Other services: There is a general recognition that the other services SCS provides are important and should be continued (home repairs, Alzheimer’s day care, senior centers/wellness, etc.). There does not seem to be widespread private donor support for these programs, but stakeholders still find them worthy and seem to point toward governmental support. Fee-based revenue may also provide opportunities, but there was not overwhelming interest or direction in that regard.
· Collaboration and Competition: Most stakeholders recognize that SCS does a good deal of collaboration, but perhaps need to highlight these collaborations better.

What do you think? Please share your opinion with me at jsmythe@scsatl.org. We hope to launch our new plan in June, so please let me “listen” to your insights today!

-- by Jeff Smythe, Executive Director

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