Members of SCORE (Service Corp of Retired Executives), an organization created and supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration, offer in-person and online counseling for both for-profit and nonprofit organizations on Martha’s Vineyard.
In this monthly column, The Times has invited SCORE members to discuss business issues familiar to Vineyard business owners and managers. SCORE members will also answer questions from readers, posted at mvtimes.com.
The SCORE (Service Corp of Retired Executives) counselors on Martha’s Vineyard unveiled a new initiative to assist the Island’s non-profit organizations (NPOs) at a meeting the Visiting Nurses Association (VNA) hosted of executive directors assembled by the Donors Collaborative on April 25 . Representatives of approximately 30 NPOs attended.
Recently the Small Business Association expanded its services by creating tools that SCORE counselors nationwide might utilize to provide non-profit-oriented counseling. This meeting was planned to launch that NPO- focused effort on the Island.
In a survey conducted prior to the meeting, the Donors Collaborative posed the following question to Island NPOs: If you were offered a free consultant or expert what is the first issue you would have them address in your organization?
The Collaborative received 37 responses from individuals representing 33 island non-profits. The vast majority of respondents (51%) said they need help with “fundraising/development strategy.” The respondents also want help with developing mission statements, strategic planning, marketing/promotion and organizational issues.
SCORE volunteers Michael Adell, Bill Skinner, Norman Werthwein, Harvey Beth and Susan Silk shared their for-profit and non-profit backgrounds with the executive directors. Each presenter highlighted experiences he or she had in dealing with the issues identified by the survey including: finances and strategic planning, organizational issues, marketing, communications and governance.
During the question and answer portion of the meeting a variety of questions arose.
Questions and answers
Q: How are SCORE counselors trained?
A: “We each took an online course and examination in order to be certified counselors,” Ms. Silk said. “We are about to take another two hour long online course and be re-examined to be sure that we are still qualified to counsel and mentor clients.”
Q: How often do you experience clients coming in with a question and you helping them to discover underlying issues or problems?
A: “Probably fifty percent of clients come to an initial SCORE meeting with one issue and through the course of the meeting and questioning realize that there are underlying issues or unforeseen challenges,” Mr. Adell said.
Q: How much time do you spend with clients?
“It depends,” Mr. Adell said. “Some clients come for one meeting others come back every two weeks or once a month for months if not years.”
Mr. Skinner reminded the audience that any and all SCORE meetings are confidential. Mr. Adell added that SCORE clients are guaranteed bluntly honest answers, “Even if that means saying that something is not a really viable idea,” he said.
Mr. Beth said that the SCORE support effort on Martha’s Vineyard is not limited to the volunteers on-Island. He said, “We can reach out across the nation to find the expertise you may need. There are thousands of SCORE volunteers we can call upon to help you.”
Q: Would you suggest meeting with the executive director alone or with the entire board?
A: That first meeting is critically important to establishing the relationship and having a frank and honest conversation,” Mr. Skinner said.
Ms. Silk added that in follow up meeting perhaps the executive director and a handful of board representatives would be appropriate.
The SCORE volunteers also told the group that they are prepared to develop a number of workshops to meet the NPOS currently unmet training needs. SCORE counselors are anticipating the need for a course that covers finance (budgeting, cash flow analysis, forecasting, etc.) and computer –based management (including QuickBooks and Excel) as well as communication and marketing.
SCORE on the Island needs your help. If you are a retired or semi-retired business executive become a counselor. If you don’t have much free time but are able to provide resource expertise in the areas of law, accounting or technology and you could offer as little as ten hours of time annually let us know.
Small business owners seeking counseling service may go to www.score.org and complete a brief application.
Non- profits seeking counseling are asked to telephone the SCORE office to receive a one-page application form and arrange an appointment at 508-696-9687 to get involved.
Susan Silk is a semi-retired communication consultant. Prior to moving to the Island full-time, she was the founder and president of a communication consulting and training firm in Chicago.