Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Road to Independence

Though it's been a long time in the works, the transition from program of our national offices in Atlanta and DC to a locally governed organization have truly begun. Though talks about Hands On Gulf Coast becoming and independent affiliate of the Hands On Network (now Points of Light & Hands On Network) have been around ever since I arrived in January 2006, we now have a mandate from the national board of directors to be independent by July 1.

What does independence mean? There are two parts to that answer. First and foremost, it means that Hands On Gulf Coast generates all the funds it needs to operate during the year, without the support of the national office. That means we need to be like every other nonprofit with annual appeals, sponsorships, grants, and fee-for-service options. Your support and continued commitment to the work in the Gulf will be a critical to Hands On Gulf Coast's success.
Second, independence means local governance. There are also two options being explored here. Because it's always a bad idea to start a nonprofit that duplicates the efforts of already established agencies, it's important to conduct an exhaustive survey of the nonprofit landscape, exploring all possibilities for partnership and collaboration before deciding that creating a new organization is best for the community.

We formed a Steering Committee who met for the first time of Tuesday, April 1, to discuss our options for local governance. The United Way of South Mississippi recently started a volunteer center - Volunteer Gulf Coast - with whom we've already worked. Remember Make A Difference Day (Oct 07)? It is logical to enter into a conversation with the United Way to determine whether there is a way to more tighly integrate our operations because of our closely aligned goals for community engagement.

With the United Way talk as context, the Steering Committee meeting was great. Our committee consists of nonprofit and business leaders. Some members we know quite well, others are just getting to know us. Resoundingly, they said there is a need for the services we provide - managed groups of volunteers and volunteer program development. Though we who work here and see the need for volunteer programs in all the nonprofits on the Gulf Coast, it was reassuring to hear our nonprofit partners and business leaders confirm our observations.

With that as our starting point, we asked our Steering Committee members to spread the word and suggest other people who might also be a good addition to the Steering Committee and could potentially turn into initial board members. We're always looking for new contacts and new opportunities to firmly root Hands On Gulf Coast on the Gulf Coast for years to come.

As the process unfolds and evolves, we will continue to keep you posted on developments.

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