Spotlight Series #3 .. The Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery

Artist Greg Preslicka volunteered to paint murals on bedroom walls of the Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery.

One year ago I was voted on to The Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery board and I was thrilled!  We have been financial supporters and volunteers at The Nursery for over 8 years and have always been so impressed with their mission, innovation and caring approach.  The Crisis Nursery was originally located on the same piece of property as the kids grade school, so we would literally be at The Nursery every day.  We were curious about their work and so started volunteering through Target; painting rooms, serving meals and providing supplies.  During particularly rough family time, we came to learn about their 4th Day Program.  (The 4th Day Program offers in home support, parenting coaching and mental health check ins for families once a week for a year post crisis).  We realized how blessed we were have the resources and support to get the help our family needed to work through any crisis. Not all families have this support.  The 4th day program is filling a gap for families that goes beyond crisis, it coaches parents on how to build stronger, more resilient families.  We were hooked.

The mission of the Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery is to end child abuse and neglect and create strong, healthy families. As noted on their website.  “We are the only residential crisis nursery in Minnesota, and one of only 20 in the country. We started with a goal to establish a crisis helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week; and to shelter six children per day. Today we answer over 4,000 crisis calls and shelter over 2,200 children a year. We’ve come a long way and remain committed to ending child abuse and neglect and to supporting and strengthening families in our community.”  I won’t go into the core mission of the organization or their numerous program, you can read all about that on the website and in this amazing Star Tribune article. Instead, I’m going to highlight the biggest internal issue we’ve been addressing over the last year.  In my typical format….

~ What problem are we trying to solve ?

~ What is my role, as a board member, in helping solve this problem?

Problem Statement – In the last year, The Nursery has had a full turn over of their development/fundraising staff. As you can imagine, being able for fund the direct services as well as innovative solutions is critical for the families we serve.  As a board, we rallied to support Mary Pat as she hired and onboard a new team.  One of the silver linings of a new staff is the opportunity to ask questions about process, history, context and reimagine how things “might” be done.  Mary Pat as extremely open to this moment of change and the Development Committee and Finance Committee jumped in feet first.

My Role – As a brand new member of the Development Committee, it was an amazing time to learn, ask questions and really dig into the operations, funding and growth of The Nursery.  It was also a rare opportunity to pull the Finance Committee and Development Committee together to level set both the income and out stream of dollars.  Susie Wilmot is our Finance Committee Chair and Christina Miller is our Development Chair.  I am in awe at the amount of work, thought, partnership and effort they put into their roles. Over the course of the last year, they’ve led us through a process to …
~ Recap funding, by type, by month over the last 7 years

~ Estimate and Forecast funding for the next 2 years

~ Understand historical operating expense

~ Merge our forecasted funding with our anticipated expenses, identifying where we need to invest to grow and what are our inhibitors

These efforts have given us a really strong (and accurate) foundation to understand pressure points, new funding streams and potential risks to our model.  This work was also incredibly important as we on boarding new development staff. They had a roadmap for their goals, roles and a vision they could all rally around.

As you can imagine, our goals are bigger than our ability to fund them.  This is where it got fun as a Development Committee member.  The 1st big test for us was the spring Forumla for Hope event.  Cheryl Cooper Boyd was the event chair and Martha Pettee the marketing/communications coordinator. They set an audacious goal to exceed prior years results by 20%.  Based on the talent, tenacity and pure grit of these women, I’m not at all surprised that we blew it out of the water. The program was engaging, authentic and inspirational. Caroline Wanga was our key note speaker and she stunned the crowd with her message of hope and support.  Her life story is inspiring and a reminder to not judge people by their current circumstances but to see the potential in everyone. Next up? Harvesting Hope this fall. We are taking our lessons learned from the spring event and will be planning a kick a– wine tasting event (10/6 – hold the date!). We’ve also secured some unique innovation funding with the Center for Developing Child at Harvard (seriously!! Harvard!!).

Its really incredible what a new, energized, supported and motivated team can do when they take a fresh approach and have the support of their leaders and board.

While this was a learning year for me, I do think that my ability to ask questions, find creative ways to engage funders and leverage my connections in corporations (especially Target) were helpful to rebuilding our base of support.

Now that I’m no longer the “new” board member, I cant wait to welcome our newest board members at our year end board meeting Wednesday.  Its going to be fun to be a part of ‘what’s next” for The Nursery in 2018 & beyond !!