A Note From Layli: Improving Capacity and Increasing Efficiency
Nonprofits don’t often talk about the resources that allow them to do their work, but I am excited to share with you that we are nearing the end of a thoughtful two year process of significantly increasing our capacity and efficiency. In 2007, after a decade of serving our clients, we paused to take a hard look at ourselves and, through a strategic process of feedback and planning, developed a plan to make improvements in our infrastructure, organizational design, processes, policies, and physical space. Though we did not then anticipate the current economic crisis, we count ourselves incredibly fortunate that we are now better able to meet these challenges and serve our clients due to these efficiency gains.
I want to highlight several of the improvements in capacity made during this process:
- Legal Services: We have migrated to a new online case management system that unifies the immigration, family law, and social service records of our clients and allows us to comprehensively track their needs while efficiently identifying trends. We have also improved processes and policies and reorganized our staffing structure. Finally, we are creating an e-forum for our network of almost 600 pro bono attorneys so that we can make easily available our training materials, legal resources, and organizational knowledge.
- Financial Management: With our budget now exceeding $6.5 million, including in-kind donated services, we have reached an organizational milestone and recognized the need for greater sophistication of our financial management systems. As a result, we have upgraded and reorganized our financial systems and policies to allow for increased analysis, projections, and tracking.
- Physical Space: We have moved to a new office to save money (per square foot), allow easier access to public transportation, and enable staff to be together on one floor. An exciting feature of our new space is that it has a child-friendly intake space that allows clients to talk to our staff about the intimate details of their case while their children are playing, visible but separate, in a children’s room on the other side of a glass wall.
- Process for Evaluation and Feedback: We have improved our process for receiving input on our programs and performance, which allow for external stakeholders (including pro bono attorneys and clients) as well as staff and Board members to provide regular, in-depth feedback to assess our programs and processes. Additionally, our already strong tradition of strategic planning has increased in sophistication to account for a larger organization, a more detailed system of metrics and goals tracking, and regular reporting to management and the Board on progress towards the strategic plan.
- Online Presence: Tahirih has been working diligently to produce a new website and will be unveiling it soon. This resource will amplify Tahirih’s ability to champion the protection of immigrant women and girls fleeing violence and to provide valuable information to the public.
- Database Management: Tahirih’s entire contacts database is being transferred to a new system that will allow us to better manage relationships, maintain accuracy of information, and improve communications.
While I realize that these investments in internal capacity are not terribly glamorous, they are critical to our ability to better serve immigrant women and girls fleeing violence. We made these investments prior to the recent economic collapse, and we are particularly grateful that they are almost complete so that we are now better able to serve immigrant women and girls who, in these economic times, are at even greater risk for violence.1
It is because of our focus on organizational strength and structural capacity that we are able to turn every $1 you donate into $5 through in-kind donated services. During this time of economic hardship, we are particularly grateful for your trust and support. Thank you for your continued commitment to our efforts to protect immigrant women and girls in need.
1During times of increased economic hardship, rates of domestic violence rise. See “Increased Financial Stress Affects Domestic Violence Victims,” National Domestic Violence Hotline, January 30, 2009.