Spoiler Alert: It takes more than heart to keep an organization going!
It’s an interesting path: from SAHM to Mayor of Clinton, NJ to Executive Director at Resource Center of Somerset. How did those roles lead you to where you are today?
After staying home with my children for about 10 years and being involved in local and school groups, I decided to get into local government. There was a political battle in town over plans to bring a Home Depot to Clinton, NJ on a spot just along the scenic South Branch of the Raritan River, which flows through the quaint, historic downtown and down to the iconic Red Mill and its waterfall.
So I decided that I would get involved. After an unsuccessful bid for Council, I ran for Mayor against the uncontested incumbent. I lost by three votes. I ran a second time for Mayor and won –and had been re-elected.
During that time, I also served as VP for NJ Conference of Mayors. I may be an idealist, but I believe that there should be such a thing in politics as “good” lobbying; I guess it’s called “advocacy”
Although I loved serving as mayor, I decided it was time to go. I felt someone else needed to do get into that position and I wasn’t sure that I’d have the energy and desire necessary at the end of another term.
That’s when I went to work as Director of Development for Life Raft Group, an organization that helps ensure the survival of GIST patients through a comprehensive approach connecting individual patients’ needs, the worldwide community of GIST advocates and the global health and research environment. To do this, we focused on three key areas: research, patient support & education, and advocacy.
I contributed to the financial support of that mission through raising money for them on an international level–which was a long way from the days of local government.
However, I’d always really loved management and have very strong feelings about the ability to help women in crisis and found my way to Resource Center of Somerset.
How is your nonprofit funded?
Most of our funding comes from the government, but we also hold a Gala in which one of our clients addresses the group and gives first hand experience of what she has had to overcome and how Resource Center helped give her the tools she needed to get to a safe and productive life. And, we also work with local businesses to help find ways to meet our needs.
Often, people in abusive situations have never had access to the family’s finances; often they’ve never even opened a bank account. We need to teach them basic life skills, provide safe housing and help get them on their feet. That involves providing education and maybe helping them finish school—we have a partnership with Raritan Valley Community College to help. To provide food for the families staying at our safe house (up to five at any given time), for example, those bills can exceed $1,500/ month even after using donated nonperishables. So, it’s important for us to raise funds as well as set up strategic partnerships that can help…like working with a local grocery chain.
We also partner with (local college) Raritan Valley Community College to help our clients gain access to additional education; in some cases finish high school.
What unique challenges does your group face?
Marketing to those who needs our services can be tricky –so much of our communication directly to person who needs us must be anonymous for their safety. We get the word out through volunteer Domestic Violence Response Teams working with local police departments. We are very visible during October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month. But marketing is a challenge.
I noticed a Wish List on your website. Do you find that helps?
Yes, it really does! And I would recommend that other groups like us use such a tool. There are so many times that clients come to us with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. They have a need for additional clothing and need to have access to clothes for interviews, as well. We hold donated clothing sorted and organized by size and sex for our clients and their children.
How do you measure success?
For our organization, outcome measurement is easy: We want our clients to have the tools to change their lives for the better. Is that working? We keep data on our clients, constantly keeping track of their success with ongoing case management. These are tangible outcomes.
What advice do you have to share with other managers?
Without good financial practices in place, your group will not be able to get positive outcomes. Administrators and program directors have to learn and understand budgeting. You can have the biggest heart, get clinical programs underway, but you have to understand financial management, and have strong budgeting skills. You need to be able to account for every expense. It (the program) needs to be treated like a business in that sense. And you need to treat the money in the budget as if were you own —and spend it wisely, get the most from your vendors.
Resource Center of Somerset, Inc. www.resourcecenterofsomerset.org is a nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to serving those whose lives have been impacted by domestic abuse. Our mission is to end domestic abuse and empower victims by providing protection, education and resources. We are committed to providing quality services in all areas of operation in an efficient and effective manner. Our goal is to grow and adapt our services to meet the changing needs of our clients. Christine’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org