Sat 6 May 2006
Project S.H.A.R.E. is well know as a food back which provides food items to low income families each month. At its core, however, the organization seeks a much deeper purpose. Its mission statement names its goal of not only providing food for those in need, but also “improving [their] physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.” S.H.A.R.E’s programs are designed to educate its constituency so to assist them in bettering their quality of life. The organization plays a small, yet crucial, part in getting families back on their feet by easing their financial burdens and teaching them skills for better living. One of its greatest strengths is its ability to involve a wide spectrum of stakeholders throughout the community. The emotional drive is contagious, affecting not only the families it serves, but also the hundreds of churches, businesses and volunteers that contribute to the cause. Elaine and the management have done an excellent job of making Project S.H.A.R.E. an organization for the community run by the community.
It is difficult to measure how much Matt and I were able to contribute to S.H.A.R.E’s constituents. At the end of our service, we have no tangible product to show for the time spent working with Elaine and Pam. Our task of working on the organization’s data management dealt with its the macro management structure. As with any attempt to reform a major system or process in a business the progress was very slow. The first few weeks were spent trying to figure out exactly what needed to be accomplished. From there we finally gained forward momentum and began to research potential options for changes in S.H.A.R.E’s data management. Despite dealing with a number of frustrations and setbacks, I come away from the experience feeling confident that we were in fact able to make an impact on the direction of the organization. We were able to identify a number of areas of inefficiencies created by the lack of proper data systems. By implementing the appropriate systems (namely an appropriate accounting software), the management will be able to gain a much better understanding of its constituents and how it can better serve them. It will also free up the countless hours now spent finding files and searching for needed numbers. In the end, the benefits of implementing an improved data management system will be realized by the people who the organization serves.
In working with Project S.H.A.R.E., Matt and I were able to see many practical applications of the material covered in class. We were mainly focused on the management aspects of the organization, where we were able to get an in depth look at how Elaine and her staff function on a daily basis. Elaine has had little training regarding business practices and management techniques so she has been forced to learn as she goes. Common amongst executive directors in small nonprofits, this is seen in the lack of organization of the data. For example, there are over 300 files spread out amongst various folders on S.H.A.R.E’s public drive most of which haven’t been use for years. We have read that having a solid handle on financial information and other data is instrumental in not only evaluating the nonprofits performance but also in strategically planning the future course of endeavors. It’s difficult to develop a long term vision for the organization without fully understanding its current status and having the proper systems in place. Project S.H.A.R.E. has reached a point where its growth can no long be sustained by its “primitive” systems that were at one time sufficient. It’s continuously growing list of constituents have created a complex network of stakeholders. Complexity in the structure requires proficient management with more systems with greater capabilities.