Giving Compass’ Take:
• Amy Celep discusses strategies for nonprofit organizations to maintain their focus and stay accountable to the communities they serve.
• How can funders help to ensure grantees focus on staying accountable to the community?
• Learn about managing power and privilege in philanthropy.
While nonprofits are ultimately accountable to the communities they serve, pressures to please other stakeholders often distract from this accountability. Many organizations feel pressure to please funders and donors to ensure an organization’s financial sustainability and ability to continue to deliver on its mission. Similarly, executive directors or CEOs of nonprofits often feel pressure — whether one admits it or not — to please the board, as one’s own job or personal sustainability can depend on it.
So how do organizations keep focused on holding themselves accountable to the communities they serve, even amid these pressures? For Miriam’s Kitchen, a nonprofit focused on ending chronic homelessness in Washington, D.C., it’s a matter of explicitly committing to who comes first and building intentional practices to make it a reality.
At Miriam’s Kitchen, a core value is that its chronically homeless guests are at the center of everything the organization does. To live this value, the staff have built intentional opportunities to gather input from guests and incorporate that input into decisions about strategy and day-to-day operations. For example, Miriam’s Kitchen has a Guest Engagement Working Group, which is made up of guests that meet regularly to offer input on services. As the organization was refining its theory of change, staff invited a few guests to provide feedback.
Staying accountable to those experiencing chronic homelessness in D.C. has resulted in progress for Miriam’s Kitchen. Just five years ago, the organization transformed its strategy from a sole focus on direct services to orchestrating systemic change to end chronic homelessness in D.C. As a result of that decision, Miriam’s Kitchen played a leading role in creating a coordinated entry system for individuals experiencing homelessness that streamlines the process for getting on the list to receive permanent supportive housing and gives priority attention to those who are most likely to die on the streets.
Read the full article about accountability by Amy Celep of Community Wealth Partners at Medium.
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