5.27.2011

Update from the Boss! - PNOLA Strives for Efficiency to Stretch Donor Dollars!

I know I always talk about money - unfortunately everything we do requires it so it's constantly at the forefront of what we do. Money allows us to help people and we are always looking for donations, grants, and other business opportunities that fit within our mission. I've told you all a lot about our needs and what we can do with your generosity, but I don't often talk about the inner workings of how we do what we do. Admittedly, this will probably be more interesting to those of you who also run businesses or organizations, but I still encourage you to read along. This post is certainly right in line with an interview I gave recently with Non-Profit Spark, which can be listened to here: http://webtalkradio.net/2011/05/23/nonprofit-spark-%E2%80%93-boost-efficiency-and-save-thousands-with-cloud-technology/

Maximizing Staff Time and Skill

PNOLA has adopted a hiring road map, role responsibilities, and automated processes that work in concert to allow us to hire as few people as possible for the greatest effect possible. We strive to hire people who are very talented and have unique skills that they can bring. While we are notorious for being very under-funded and thus have had one of the lowest payrolls in the rebuild industry this whole time, we have been fortunate enough to attract employees who work well above their pay-grade. Additionally, we have started making a concerted effort to establish more competitive salaries so that we can attract even more and also retain talented people. The goal is not to pay people a lot of money, but to get the most bang for our buck. We also do this by crafting our positions to meet the most important needs of the organization in our focused effort to serve families and our neighborhood. Each role is designed to address the critical pathways that allow for us to do work efficiently. We also eliminate as many redundant and menial tasks by establishing automation using our systems (Salesforce.com, Google Apps, and Buildstar.com) which reduces the need for staff-hours dramatically. We don't want to ever 'crowd-source' the problem by hiring as many warm bodies to chip away at daunting and repetitive tasks, we want specific and focused skill sets aided by strong planning and processes to maximize every minute of every work day. We don't always accomplish this, but its a cornerstone of our development as an organization.

P.S. we are hiring! www.pnola.org/hiring

Program Focus

PNOLA die-hards know that we try to do a lot. But below the surface you realize that everything we do is pretty narrow in terms of scope, we just try to do a lot of it! We never wanted to be the 'fix everything' organization - we recognize the existence of other agencies and entities in the community who are inherently better at certain things than we could ever be, so we consider the comparative advantages of each of our partners and attempt to bring our own advantages to each partnership. If someone else already knows how to do something better than we do, we don't need to try to do it in-house. The best example of this is the relationship we establish with community assets that we help. Liberty's Kitchen had a strong plan for how to help provide vocational training as an alternative sentence for juvenile offenders. That's a great program, but Janet (who founded Liberty's Kitchen) already knew how to do it and there is no way PNOLA could do it better. What we could bring to the table was our construction abilities to help them get their facility up and running. In that way we are able to affect the important aspects of community development (health, safety, education, recreation/community space, economic development, etc.) while staying true to our skill set.

Best Practices

This is mainly all to do with adopting best practices. PNOLA draws from both the for-profit construction industry as well as non-profits to ensure that we are working to adopt these tried and true practices. In most cases we put our own twist on them, but the concepts are all very useful to us. I've been thinking about it a lot more (and always do every time there is another disaster) with the recent flooding and tornado problems our country has been having. We see other communities on the news who, 6 years ago, watch New Orleans go through the nightmare they now face. I think about all of the hard work that the staff at PNOLA as well as other great organizations around the country put into figuring out how to always do things better and smarter, but fear that all of this great development is kept in silos and not shared with the world. For many years we have planned to put together a best practices portal of our own to start compiling articles that are already out there, solicit contributions from others in various industries, and contribute our own learning. While this cannot be done in time for the current disasters, as we have all seen there will always be the next one that follows along shortly. As other communities work to rebuild (even those whose disasters were economic and not natural) I can only hope that we make strides in providing our own experience to the benefit of those other community leaders as they take on the task of recovery.

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