Client Spotlight: ROOF Over Head

In 2009, a group of retirees from Newburyport, MA, created an accidental nonprofit organization. The group had been meeting for years to discuss current events and hot topics in the community once a week when homelessness came to the table. The subject stayed strong in group members’ minds, and the next week, entirely out of character, homelessness was discussed again. They reviewed statistics on homelessness in the area with shock—who knew this financially sound community was home to families who had no place to call their own?

After weeks and months of continued discussion outside of the group’s weekly meetings, ROOF Over Head was born. Kerri Perry, ROOF’s current Co-President, joined the volunteer organization shortly thereafter in 2010.

“I can see how ESC’s services would be of value to an established organization that’s sort of set in its ways,” Kerri said, “but we were really malleable, and it grounded us.”

From the beginning, ROOF’s mission has been to provide temporary housing and a means for lasting financial independence. The program works to set qualified families up with a place to live—a roof over head—for up to two years, as well as a financial rehabilitation program conducted by a contracted independent social worker.

While the mission and intentions of the board were strong, Kerri said the 100% volunteer structure was becoming difficult for the organization to navigate as responsibilities and desires to do more increased.

Enter ESC Consultants Bob French and Louise Borke. The two came on as a team for a Strategic Planning consulting project in 2012 with the intention to focus ROOF’s efforts, and their success shocked the Co-President. Bob and Louise came in with different styles that worked perfectly together, according to Kerri. While Bob was more task-oriented, presenting and sticking to a plan right from the beginning, Louise would dig deep into the everyday operations of the organization to identify how best the Strategic Plan should be developed and implemented.

With ESC’s guidance, ROOF’s Strategic Planning project engaged a small group of volunteers who were assigned core areas of focus. Out of this came the creation of five committees, which the organization has continued to utilize, that cover all aspects of ROOF’s mission and the organization’s ability to meet its constituents’ needs.

Bob and Louise also made it clear that a volunteer organization cannot be top-heavy; in other words, work needed to be better distributed to volunteers other than those in executive positions. Once this was understood, ROOF was able to see more clearly how the established committees could be maximized, and recruitment efforts took off. Kerri said positions were filled by friends and neighbors that her organization hadn’t dreamed of before working with ESC.

“The outcome was unbelievable,” Kerri said. “It was unbelievable how much stronger, and sharper, and more efficient we became.”

ROOF’s board reviews the Strategic Plan annually, and Kerri cites the plan as the foundation of its continued success. The organization remains central to progress in Newburyport’s homelessness issues today.

ESC of New England offers a complimentary assessment visit to any nonprofit in eastern Massachusetts or Rhode Island seeking capacity building and management consulting. Please call or email Ulea Lago at 617-357-5550 or ulago@escne.org today to make your appointment.

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