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LEAVEN staff training POINTed to expansion

Mary Parsons had a gut feeling about why clients at LEAVEN weren’t getting services they were being referred to, but she needed someone to POINT the way toward testing her theory.

Mary Parsons

LEAVEN’s experience with POINT (Poverty Outcomes and Improvement Network Team) allowed Parsons and her staff to compile a compelling case for an expansion to house representatives of other agencies serving those in need. POINT uses volunteer business executives to provide intensive training for leaders of Fox Valley nonprofits in a management approach called continuous improvement. Then Community Foundation donated staff time to get the effort started.

“This expansion was really a gut decision,” said Parsons, executive director of LEAVEN, which assists with emergency housing, clothing and other basic needs.

She knew in her bones that clients who were being sent to other agencies for services LEAVEN doesn’t provide were missing out because they just weren’t showing up at the other places. Whether for lack of transportation, fatigue or fear of the unknown, they were passing up assistance. Her solution was to base representatives of those other agencies at LEAVEN in a Community Resource Center where they could be walked right to the help they need.

The donors needed to support the $1 million construction project might require more than Parsons’ gut feeling. As she tried the idea out on potential donors, one suggested her team enroll in POINT first.

“To be honest, I was kind of disappointed at the time because I was ready to move forward,” she said.

In the quarterly POINT training sessions, LEAVEN Client Services Director Liz Schneider and board member Patricia Exarhos tracked statistics on referrals, surveyed clients and did a pilot study with the one-stop model. The data they gathered in the study supported Parsons’ gut feeling and the Community Resource Center is now under construction with an opening expected by July 1.

Tim Murphy, an executive with Oshkosh Corp., served as LEAVEN’s coach for POINT. He conducted a half-day retreat with a dozen community partners who helped LEAVEN identify and prioritize root causes of client recidivism and explore collaborative efforts.

Fifteen charitable funds within the Community Foundation awarded grants to LEAVEN’s expansion project totaling $408,608, including a $50,000 grant from the Foundation’s Bright Idea Fund. Another $218,608 of the total, to pay for the database and related staffing, came from the Basic Needs Giving Partnership, which is funded by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs from the annual U.S. Venture Open golf outing, with additional money from the J. J. Keller Foundation and other community partners.

“POINT was the best thing we could have done,” Parsons said. “POINT taught us the value of making decisions based on data. This was not intuitive to us.”

POINT will become an ongoing part of LEAVEN’s operations. The person hired to run the resource center will have as a job duty tracking the continuous improvement data.

“It’s really an exciting time at LEAVEN,” Parsons said.

Mary Parsons discusses the project on WHBY’s Fresh Take

You can make the Bright Ideas burn even brighter by adding your support. See a list of all grants awarded from the Bright Idea Fund.

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