Stronger, effective groups
Training shows a demonstrable impact on organizations
When Jeff Bush started the Rip City Riders in Klamath Falls, he had a dual purpose: to change the sometimes negative image people had of motorcycle riders and to raise money to benefit the children of the Klamath Falls community.
The group decided to concentrate on one big fund-raising event each year, to include crowd-pleasing bike events, an outdoor concert, vendors and activities for the kids. It proved to be a recipe for success, with the group raising more than $40,000 over the last four years for groups that benefit children.
Building a strong organization takes a distinct set of skills
This July, the group will host the 5th Annual Summer Fun Run & Festival. With the popular event drawing up to 1,600 people a day during its three-day run, it’s a much-needed boost for the Klamath Falls economy as well as for local youth.
As members of the group’s board of directors watched the event grow in popularity, they realized that they needed a little help. “We’re a bunch of old bikers,” Bush says with a laugh. “We were breaking new ground and doing new things. None of us had been on a nonprofit board before. We wanted to make sure we were doing the right things and doing everything legally.”
Training for organizations
Members of the board decided to participate in training from the Ford Institute for Community Building. Trainers Roi Crouch and Mary Ward took the board through the Institute’s Effective Organizations training, which focuses on strategic planning, organizational leadership and resource development. A follow-up coaching session focused on board recruitment, organizational structure and fund-raising strategies.
The Ford Institute training is built on the premise that strong organizations help create and maintain strong communities. In the recent Oregon State University evaluation, the Ford Institute set out to discover if that premise was proving to be true. The answer was yes. Participants in the Effective Organizations training reported that they leave the training highly likely to implement many of the strategies discussed there. They were most likely to improve the functioning of their boards, update their organizations’ strategic plans, and improve the development and management of human and financial resources. “Thus, the trainings have a demonstrable impact on participants, and they are likely to carry out the actions necessary to creating and sustaining an effective organization,” the report concludes.
Building a strong organization takes a distinct set of skills that are different for each group. In the Rogue Valley, the Rose Circle board of directors focused on building capacity. The group’s mission is to support and empower youth through mentoring (see article, opposite page). Two board members attended the Effective Organizations training, where they realized their group could use some extra help in building capacity. Through a Ford Family Foundation technical assistance grant, the board developed a strategic plan to help them carry out prioritized goals. “It was very effective for them,” says trainer Roi Crouch. “One of the other outcomes was the creation of a long-term budget projection that allows them to track what it cost to run the program and where the money is coming from.”
In Klamath Falls, Bush says the board of the Rip City Riders is now more confident of its processes and strategies, and is well positioned to deal with the burgeoning event. Three of the group’s volunteers have gone on to grant school. ”It was really worth it,” Bush says of the training. “If it comes back around, we’ll do it again.”