Helping a New Jersey Nonprofit Take Its Services to the Next Level

Claire E. Walton details how a New Jersey Health Initiative (NJHI) Community Agency Capacity Enhancement (CACE) grant is helping the state's oldest nonprofit dedicated to the welfare of children develop and deliver effective programs.

    • September 3, 2012

To move forward with direction, momentum and purpose, a boat needs a rudder, a kite needs a tail—and a nonprofit organization needs a clear vision, a cogent mission statement and a viable strategic plan. In Summer 2011, Trenton-based UIH Family Partners (UIH), keenly felt the need to revisit and update these essential tools.

The oldest nonprofit in New Jersey dedicated to the welfare of children, UIH was an agency at a crossroads. Just a year earlier, it had closed its prohibitively expensive residential program for adolescent mothers in order to more cost-effectively improve outcomes for at-risk children by enhancing and expanding its programming for men. The nonprofit had faithfully served thousands of the state’s most in-need, vulnerable and underserved men, women and children for 152 continuous years, and yet was experiencing an identity crisis.

Some in Greater Trenton had only known UIH through its residential program; when that closed, rumors flew that the agency had folded. Others were only familiar with UIH’s work with men through a program called “Operation Fatherhood,” and did not realize that it also reached out to non-fathers.

Still others persisted in referring to the nonprofit by its historical name, “Union Industrial Home for Children”—a moniker that had been abandoned in 2007. Further complicating matters was the fact that while UIH enjoyed a strong track record of success in strengthening parents, developing resilient children and building effective families, it had no effective means to demonstrate its value to the community. Moreover, the agency’s mission statement was outdated and it had been some time since the Board had engaged in a strategic planning process.

Recognizing that these challenges were inhibiting its ability to develop and deliver impactful programs and services to promote child and family well-being, UIH applied for—and was awarded—one of RWJF’s inaugural New Jersey Health Initiative’s (NJHI) Community Agency Capacity Enhancement (CACE) grants. This two-year, $150,000 funding opportunity includes technical assistance from NJHI and various consultants, and will allow UIH to substantially build its capacity to provide meaningful programming to historically underserved populations and take its services to the next level. Informed by the results of the Core Capacity Assessment Tool that had been used to probe the agency’s strengths and weaknesses, UIH and NJHI leadership forged an action plan that will help UIH significantly extend its reach into Mercer County, particularly among the rapidly growing Hispanic population; revisit and refine its mission; develop a strategic plan; demonstrate the value of its work to participants; the public; funders; collaborators and other stakeholders; build a strong case for support; augment its marketing and branding skills; evaluate its work; and promote sustainability. Already the agency has adopted both a vision statement and a new mission statement (“Empowering New Jersey’s men, fathers and families to achieve self-sufficiency”); participated in staff and Board trainings around strategic planning and proving return on investment; and is readying to engage in focus groups and community needs assessments.

Thank you, RWJF, and congratulations on your ruby anniversary!


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