Hope 4 Youth
HOPE 4 Youth in Anoka is a drop-in center serving youth experiencing homelessness. We provide them with housing, outreach, prevention, and education support. We are addressing the issue of youth homelessness in the northern part of the Twin Cities. The mission of HOPE 4 Youth is “Providing pathways to end youth homelessness.” Our vision is that all youth will feel safe, valued, and supported while reaching their full potential. This begins with meeting their basic needs and leads to giving them the tools to thrive.
What were the challenges you faced? Why did you seek out a consultant?
HOPE 4 Youth needed assistance in several areas: finding an interim executive director; transitioning the organization to the next level; moving toward transitional housing in addition to programs for youth; transitioning to a governing board model from an operational board; teaching the organization and board how to be a flourishing nonprofit organization; ensuring we were following nonprofit regulations; putting roles, responsibilities, policies and procedures in place; and hiring an executive director.
Working with your consultant(s), what action(s) did you take/changes did you make to overcome these issues and move forward?
Our consultant, Cheryl Jensen, served as the interim executive director of our very young but fast growing organization. She moved us up to the next level by coaching, leading, and having difficult conversations with many of us so we would learn how to keep this organization moving forward. She provided the experience, knowledge, and skills to make us a solid organization.
Cheryl then found us a tremendous executive director so she could transition out while leaving the organization in a stable position.
Which parts of this process of change went well and why?
Cheryl made solid recommendations with evidence and background material to coach us. She showed us our weaknesses and our strengths and helped us enhance areas that were necessary to make our organization stable. She made us aware of rules and regulations so we can operate efficiently and focus on our mission. Cheryl provided brilliant ideas to ensure the organization has a positive presence in the community. She had to deal with some very difficult people and situations and handled them professionally.
Which parts of this process of change didn't go so well and why?
Cheryl did a fantastic job handling challenging situations and some people were not pleased. However, due to her experience, personality, and honesty, these people now say “she was right.” Consultants usually have to deal with the “ugly” and are not always liked during the “organizational training period.” However, after the consultant leaves people usually recognize what happened was for the good of the organization. This was our case as well.
This job was too large for a part-time consultant; however, Cheryl did very well with aligning us and getting us focused.
What were the key learnings of this experience?
An experienced consultant brings a plethora of knowledge, skills, techniques, and connections to help an organization transition to the next level.
A consultant will present the truth and provide evidence along with recommendations to overcome issues; assist in many areas so the organization will not need to start from scratch; coach and train a board by providing feedback on roles and responsibilities; act with integrity and professionalism—even in difficult situations; provide templates, sample documents, and handbooks so rules and regulations are adhered to for compliance purposes; and ensure the organization can carry out its mission and vision by assisting in creating a strategic plan.
We found Cheryl to be a well-connected consultant with integrity that helped our organization tremendously.