Growth is on the horizon for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, the largest human service provider on the Island. A new strategic plan released this week announced plans for increased funding, larger facilities and expanded programs.
“The strategic plan is something we’ve put a lot of time and thought into,” community services executive director Julia Burgess said yesterday. “I think we’re going to be strong in the future. We will be able to meet the needs of the Island community on firm footing.”
A public presentation of the plan will take place tomorrow at 1 p.m. in the courtyard of the community services campus across from the high school.
The plan outlines explicit goals including:
• Stabilizing sources of funding.
• Expanding facilities.
• Strengthening human resources and community relations.
• Improving programs to better address the needs of underserved Islanders.
Community Services began in 1961 with a community mental health center. The organization now operates with a $5.4 million annual budget, employs roughly 100 staff members and provides services through six specialized programs to more than 6,000 Islanders, seasonal residents and visitors each year. Funding for services comes from a number of sources. In the last fiscal year, 41 per cent of funding came from public contracts, 31 per cent from third party insurance payments, 22 per cent from private contributions and six per cent from other income. Clients reflect the diversity of the Vineyard and include Brazilians, Caucasians, the working class, the affluent, Native Americans, children and the elderly. Services offered seek to address problems inherent in any rural community, compounded on the Vineyard by a seasonal economy, isolation from the mainland and a high cost of living. According to the strategic plan, the number of cases discharged from the organization’s substance abuse program are 21 per cent higher than in the state as a whole.
In 2005, Community Services worked with the Heller School of Brandeis University on a strategic plan for 2005 through 2008. By 2007, with a number of goals met, the Community Services board of directors began developing a new strategic plan. In October 2007, the board, along with a strategic planning team and a facilitator, identified a number of group priorities. In December, the group conducted a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis. Identified strengths include endowments and employees; weaknesses include lack of career development and lack of meeting space; opportunities include new funding streams and increased visibility; threats include lack of qualified and licensed staff as well as state funding and regulations.
How the organization will fund its growth is as yet uncertain. “We are exploring whether we should try to increase our endowment or increase our capital campaign,” Mrs. Burgess said. A capital campaign would not begin this year.
The strategic plan comes at a crucial time. “One of the mistakes not-for-profits make, especially those that provide services, is that when there is a downturn in the economy, they entrench. They decrease fundraising at the exact time when you actually have to be investing in that area,” Mrs. Burgess said. With hard economic times and a lean winter ahead, Mrs. Burgess said demand for services will rise. “We are expecting things to be even more challenging,” she said.