Friday, June 1, 2012

Nonprofits Talk Strategy in the Hudson Valley

The Wall Street Journal, in an article by Melanie Grayce West, gave an overview of NYCON's recent work at Omega Institute with a number of nonprofits:

This week, 25 nonprofits from the region are taking a brief retreat in the Hudson Valley to not only take in the fresh air, but to talk strategy.

The organizations are gathering for the seventh annual "Service Week" and the "Women Serving Women Summit" at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck, N.Y. The Dyson Foundation, based in Millbrook, N.Y., is sponsoring a portion of the retreat.
The programs are designed to help grassroots nonprofits take a little time to reflect on planning so they can better serve their clients. Generally, there's very little funding available to nonprofits to cover strategic planning or better collaboration, and cash-strapped organizations with few staff members can rarely afford the working time to reflect and plan. This week's retreats include time to meet to develop a strategic plan and at an on-site "nonprofit wellness clinic" sponsored by the New York Council of Nonprofits.

Participating organizations include many that serve women and children, like Hollaback, a Brooklyn-based anti-harassment organization, and the Lower Eastside Girls Club. Other organizations work in healthcare, domestic violence, mental health and with children.

The Dyson Foundation was founded in 1957 by Margaret and Charles Dyson and initially focused its funding on scholarships. Mr. Dyson made his fortune in leveraged buyouts and founded the Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corporation, a privately owned international holding company.
The Dyson family has ties to the Hudson Valley and the foundation concentrates its funding to the six counties in the mid-Hudson Valley region and on nonprofits that provide basic needs and a safety net of services—organizations that address hunger, access to healthcare, housing and afterschool programs, to name a few. At the same time, the foundation was a big supporter of the Walkway over the Hudson, a pedestrian park that spans the Hudson River.

Annually, the foundation grants around $18 million and provided $25,000 to cover the costs of the retreats at the Omega Institute.

An additional area of funding for the Dyson Foundation is to help support the health of nonprofits, be it with strategic restructuring, mergers or consultant trainings to increase capacity, says program officer Cecilia R. Stancell.
"An organization needs to be effective in order to deliver quality services to a community and to clients," says Ms. Stancell. While program grants provide funding for staffing and direct expenses, those grants do not address an organization's possible underlying problems, she says. "If an organization is not managed as well as it could be or doesn't have the capacity in terms of staffing and financing to deliver programs effectively, the clients will not be served as well as they could be."

Write to Melanie Grayce West at
A version of this article appeared May 31, 2012, on page A23 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Nonprofits Talk Strategy in the Hudson Valley.