Martha's Vineyard Community Services unveils a fresh strategic plan
Martha's Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) unveiled a new strategic plan for 2008-2012 at a gathering last week at its Oak Bluffs campus. Along with laying out guidelines for the future, the event celebrated the agency's accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), received in July.
The plan and related material, comprising three documents, pinpoints six areas of high priority and establishes goals to be implemented over the upcoming four years. The categories addressed are: finances, facilities, human resources, community relations, program delivery, and program relevance and need.
Broad goals include achieving financial stability, and providing adequate space for programs and staff. The plan also zeroes in on community relations, with the objective of providing leadership and resources, as well as being an employer of choice. It calls for delivering programs and services reflecting state-of-the-art human services practices, and expanding services to meet the needs of currently underserved Island populations.
"It all worked out very nicely," said Julia Burgess, MVCS executive director in a telephone interview, explaining that staff, directors, as well as community members and the stakeholders advisory committee were able to offer ideas on strengths, weaknesses, and the agency's direction.
Ms. Burgess, who began as director in February 2006, said the agency is not foreseeing a capital campaign or other large-scale fundraising effort to address either its financial health or space needs. "We're looking for money to gain financial stability," she said, "and will look at ways we can become not so dependent on special events like the auction for fundraising."
As part of the effort to attain financial stability, the agency will seek to increase third-party payments, build up the endowment fund, and increase the number of major donors who can be looked to for large contributions over time.
Regarding the need for more and larger spaces to accommodate meetings and conferences, Ms. Burgess noted that the agency had gained some space with the closing of the Visiting Nurse Service (VNS). She said that although the agency has often considered the idea of a new building with larger meeting space, it would not pursue a capital campaign at this time. She noted that there are many such campaigns underway on Martha's Vineyard now, and that the YMCA may be able to offer meeting space when it is built.
Ms. Burgess emphasized that the agency would like to change and expand its identity in the eyes of the community. "If you ask the average person, we are known for the auction and as a major service provider," she said. "We want to be known as a leader in the community, an advocate for people, doing preventative work and outreach, more than only services, being a real spokesperson for the Martha's Vineyard community as an advocate."
Along with being pleased with the new strategic plan, Ms. Burgess said she was delighted with the agency's achievement in receiving the CARF accreditation.
"Accreditation provides a trust factor for both consumers and funders that you can be counted on for providing quality services," she said.
According to Ms. Burgess, CARF is a private, independent organization once focused exclusively on rehabilitation facilities. Since that time the Arizona-based organization has broadened its scope and accredits a wide range of human service agencies. Ms. Burgess said that along with evaluating programs, the group assessed all aspects of the MVCS organization including finances, board of directors, governance standards, and more. She added that receiving a full three-year accreditation is a rare achievement of which she and all at the agency are very proud.
"The last two to three years has been a real uphill climb with the amount of work we've been doing," Ms. Burgess commented. "But the staff and board have been wonderful and really committed themselves to achieve the task and really shown we can provide the best quality services for Island residents. I've really been impressed."
The new plan moves forward from a strategic plan covering 2005 through 2008 developed for MVCS by the Heller School of Brandeis University. According to the new document, many of the goals of the Heller report had been met by 2007. At that time, the board of directors decided to begin developing a new plan, using the earlier one as a starting point.
The lengthy process began in winter 2007 with the assembling of a Strategic Planning Team, including board members and senior staff, who reviewed and refined the mission statement and agreed upon core values. Sheila Bracy of Collaborative Strategies of Oak Bluffs was hired as facilitator in September of that year. An all-day visioning session lead to agreement on areas of high-level priority including funding, facilities, human resources, community relations, and programs.
Later in the year the team conducted a "SWOT" analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for the agency as a whole and developed goals for the high-level issues. Work continued into 2008 with closer SWOT analyses of individual programs. Working together, board and staff determined a number of ways to tackle identified issues in both the short and long terms. The document outlines timelines for addressing them, and also offers a funding allocation grid graphically illustrating sources and use of support.
The report concludes with emphasizing the need for ongoing evaluation of the progress in achieving goals and objectives and outlines several factors in implementing this. It notes that both internal and external factors impacting the agency's funding and operations and community needs must be understood and considered. It also acknowledges and thanks the more than 130 individuals who contributed their thoughts and suggestions to the process, giving special appreciation to Ms. Burgess and board president Susan Wasserman for leadership, guidance, and inspiration.
The full text of the new strategic plan may be viewed at mvcommunityservices.com.