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Strategic goal #3: Building a resilient & equitable organization

In July, GHF’s Board of Directors and staff launched our new 2022-2026 strategic plan–an ambitious blueprint for our next four years as an organization. Guided by this living document, GHF will deepen our focus on health equity; champion community-led change; build a healthy, resilient organization; and lead advocacy to strengthen Georgia’s public health systems and workforce.

In a series of four blogs, GHF’s Executive Director Laura Colbert spotlights each of our new strategic goals. If you missed her first two blogs, you can read about our goals related to health equity here and community-led change here. 

Strategic Goal #3: The people and programs that make up GHF have the financial resources and supporting policies/practices to be sustainable and resilient in the face of change. 

As an organization working for the health and well-being of all people in Georgia, GHF readily recognizes that many factors contribute to a person’s health and to a community’s health. These factors include individuals’ work and the employment opportunities available in their communities. It also includes the ability to go beyond survival to building up resources (e.g. financial savings, a strong social network, a safe, sturdy home) and supports that can sustain them in times of crisis or change.

Healthy, equitable organizations need many similar inputs so that they can look past simple survival towards fulfilling their full missions even as the world around them or the people within them change. 

GHF’s third strategic goal stems from this understanding. It takes into account that GHF’s work inherently takes place within tectonic state and federal political landscapes, and that change is inevitable within and outside our organization. It recognizes the importance of preparing for such change in equitable and sustainable ways that are consistent with our organizational values

As a teenage organization*, this goal requires that GHF mature in certain ways while retaining our ability to innovate and change moving forward. We articulated these objectives as necessary steps towards this goal: 

  1. Update GHF’s evaluation practices and increase purposeful marketing efforts to reach receptive audiences more effectively with GHF’s impact story. As an advocacy organization, our effectiveness and power is driven in part by the number and enthusiasm of Georgians and partner groups who believe in the causes and policy changes that we are working towards. To bring in new supporters and build their commitment to our mission and vision, we must be able to measure and tell GHF’s story in compelling ways that connect with their lives and their values. 
  2. Increase unrestricted funding to 25% of GHF’s annual budget. Much of GHF’s budget comes from private philanthropic foundations, and the gifts are usually restricted to use for specific projects or purposes. Much less often, grants can be used for general operating purposes (also called “unrestricted”). While GHF is grateful for all contributions, unrestricted gifts allow for the greatest flexibility for our organization. With this flexibility, GHF can better respond to rapidly emerging needs among Georgia consumers (like when COVID-19 emerged) and be assured of some stability when the world around GHF changes suddenly. Growing this type of funding as a share of our annual budget will require a focus on broadening our base of individual (and likely corporate) supporters.
  3. Strengthen the Georgia Health Action Network so that it creates a diverse pipeline of future board members and individual donors from across the state. GHF recognizes that people who are directly affected by the policy issues on which we work bring incredible power and dedication to our organization. When these people raise their hands to say they want to be involved, we have the opportunity and obligation to support them in their advocacy for a healthier, more equitable Georgia. At the same time, these volunteer advocates bring their own skills, expertise, and resources that can benefit GHF. GHAN can serve as an elevator for leadership and donor development so that GHF is building a broad base of skilled grassroots advocates and lifting up those who are most interested in even deeper commitments to our organization. 
  4. Each year, formalize one or more internal policies or practices that promote staff or board member well-being and resilience. Building an equitable and sustainable organization requires that GHF support the people who carry out our mission daily. As a small nonprofit organization addressing Georgians’ urgent needs, it is easy to skip over the necessary maintenance and care that enable staff and board members to rest and rejuvenate from our taxing work. After eight years at GHF (and five in the Executive Director role), I took a short sabbatical this year; the break reinvigorated me and gave others a chance to fill leadership roles while I was away. Creating policies for restorative practices like sabbaticals opens the opportunity to all team members, decreases staff burnout and turnover, and enables staff growth and development. We will write down these policies and measure how they are carried out consistently, so that they are woven into our organizational culture.
  5. Embed professional and leadership development as a core organizational principle to prepare for inevitable changes. At small nonprofit organizations, it is all too common for staff and board members to have too much to do and simultaneously few opportunities for growth and new responsibilities. This dynamic is untenable for GHF if we truly want to build a resilient and equitable organization. To interrupt this pattern, GHF is committing time and resources to the development of our staff and board members. This includes allocating professional development funds in our annual budget for staff and board member use; discussing development goals with staff and board members annually (as part of staff annual reviews and the board’s annual evaluation process); identifying stepwise ways to explore new skills and leadership opportunities within GHF’s existing projects and initiatives; and setting aside paid work time for employees to attend training and programs that align with their goals.

Advocacy is carried out by people. And the people who make up GHF’s staff, board of directors, and volunteers are all talented, dedicated, and wonderful. I know I am not alone in thinking that the GHF team is great! 

That is why this strategic goal is so fundamental for GHF’s continued success. To ensure we are meeting the mark, GHF will measure our progress by evaluating the growth, diversity, and advocacy activities of our audience and volunteers; the sources and flexibility of our annual income; and staff satisfaction, development, and retention, among other measures. As we learn and improve along the way, we will share our progress with all of you. 

Thank you!


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