OVERVIEW and BACKGROUND
The Council on Addiction Prevention & Education of Dutchess County, Inc. (CAPE) was originally incorporated as the Dutchess County Council on Alcoholism and Chemical Dependency in 1987. CAPE made the change to its current name in just the last few years in order to streamline its focus and then better describe it to the community-at-large. CAPE continues to address addiction prevention, reduction and education in a number of settings and to different people throughout the county challenged by addiction or potential addiction to a variety of substances. CAPE’s programs include: Student Assistance Program; Alcohol and Education Program; Information and Referral Services; Tobacco-Free Schools Support System; the Southern Dutchess Coalition; Mid-Hudson Valley Regional Technical Assistance & Trainer Center (RTATC); Victim Impact Panel (VIP); Teen Driving: A Family Affair; Professional Education Program; The Marathon Project; Campus Coalition; and the Northeast Community Coalition. CAPE delivers these services primarily through a team of experienced and highly-skilled staff and also with the help of dedicated volunteers. In addition, these programs have thrived due to CAPE’s strong ability to collaborate with an array of partners, including schools and other organizations.
With the retirement of the previous Executive Director in 2007 and the establishment of new leadership, CAPE was prompted to re-examine its priorities and vision for the future. Although CAPE had never done a formal strategic plan, the new Executive Director saw launching into developing one as essential for the continued success of the organization. In addition, recognizing the growing call for CAPE’s services in the region, she and other organizational leaders understood the need to be strategic in setting goals and making decisions in order to maximize opportunities and resources and be mobilized to face unknown challenges.
In early June 2008, CAPE was awarded a Management Assistance Program (MAP) Capacity Building Mini-grant from the Dyson Foundation to conduct comprehensive strategic planning to be facilitated by the New York Council of Nonprofits, Inc. (NYCON), formerly The Council of Community Services of NYS, Inc. (CCSNYS). Over the course of about 14 months, staff and board members worked with NYCON representatives to design and undergo a planning process that involved data collection, a full-day board/staff retreat, and a number of committee meetings post-retreat to pull together the perspectives and ideas of stakeholders into a practicable, accountable guide for the organization’s next three years.
The data collection phase entailed NYCON administering confidential surveys to both board and staff on: organizational mission, values and vision; the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges of CAPE; and then what changes would need to occur to realize the stated vision. Board members also were asked questions about governance. In addition, NYCON interviewed “key informants”, namely local professionals in the fields of addiction, children, and criminal justice services, as well as school district staff and a CAPE funder. Interviewees were asked to comment on CAPE’s impact, ideas for improvement, and how well known the agency is in the community. The feedback was very positive and also helpful for understanding how the organization is perceived from the outside. Finally NYCON reviewed existing agency data, such as reports and statistics, for a number of CAPE’s programs.
Although inclement weather forced a few delays with scheduling the board/key staff retreat, on February 13, 2008, NYCON lead participants through a day-long session. A review of the data and thoughtful discussion revealed a number of critical issues for the organization to address, leading to clear direction in a number of areas. For example, although historically a risk-taker and pioneer of emerging trends, the consensus was that CAPE might wish to be a little more cautious over the next few years than it normally would be due to the downturn in the economy. It also was discovered that while CAPE is broadening its scope to focus more on general health and wellness, it is not moving away from addiction prevention and reduction, and unlikely to change its core mission in the next 2-3 years. Another realization was the strategic importance of focusing on evidence-based programs going forward. The group also produced drafts of a more concise mission statement, a first-time list of agency values, and a vision. Teams then volunteered to finalize the drafts in committee, for review at a later date.
Following the retreat, a committee met with NYCON over a few sessions to integrate and condense all the ideas into a practical work plan. The entire board was given an opportunity to comment on the progress and drafts throughout this process, even and especially if they weren’t able to attend the meetings. There had been a quite a few new board members joining just prior to this period, and organizational leadership wanted to utilize this opportunity to include them in the planning process.
The final written work plan, the greater part of this report, is comprised of 11 strategic directions divided into a total of 26 goals. Detailed accountability, outlining responsible parties, timelines and resources needed, are attached to each goal. The plan is meant to actively steer the work and deliberations of the organization for the next 3 years, not remain simply a written set of statements never seen or utilized. True to this intention, by the time the work plan was finalized, CAPE already was in the process of accomplishing some of the goals in the plan.
CAPE intends to not only use this plan as its road map for the next 3 years, but also monitor and evaluate the plan’s progress on a regular basis. As a “living, breathing document”, it will be modified as needed periodically as management sees fit in order to maintain its relevance and usefulness as a guide for the continued success of CAPE.
MISSION and VALUES
Previous Mission Statement
“The mission of the Council on Addiction Prevention and Education of Dutchess County, Inc. is established to promote the prevention and reduction of addictions and substance abuse. The mission will be achieved through the following activities:
- Provide programs, conferences, consultation, training and workshops to all interested groups
- Provide assistance to the community, schools, organizations, families (and individuals) in developing and establishing strategies and programs for prevention and intervention
- Disseminate information about addictions and provide referral to individuals of families regarding the availability of treatment resources
- To participate with local, state, and national resources for planning and coordination of community services and activities
- To provide advocacy and leadership on legislative and public policy issues
- To seek the necessary financial and material resources to implement and maintain the mission of the Council”
The consensus of board and staff, through both the survey responses and discussion at the retreat, was that the mission should be shorter, clearer/simpler, more inspirational, state why CAPE provides services and to whom, and that everyone should be able to see themselves within the mission. It also was felt that the mission should reflect CAPE’s growing focus on a broader concept of health and wellness than just on the prevention or reduction of addiction.
Some additional concepts and phrases were suggested at the retreat. Then a sub-committee met to integrate all of these ideas and work on finalizing a new statement. The following is the result of their work. CAPE will be adopting this more succinct, accurate, and inspiring mission statement going forward:
Current Mission Statement
To be recognized as the premier substance abuse and addiction prevention provider in the Mid-Hudson Region by implementing nationally established educational programs, policies, and services.
Prior to this strategic planning process, CAPE did not have an “official” set of organizational values, but once introduced to the idea, board and staff embraced the concept as they truly feel guided by their core beliefs. A number of values were suggested in the board and staff survey responses, and at the retreat it was discovered that quite a few of them began with the letter “C”, just like the name of the organization. The alliteration of these values, possibly to be used as a tagline or as part of new letterhead, was seen by attendees as an opportunity not to be missed. Again post retreat, a smaller group consolidated the full list of over 20 values into the most essential and important guiding principles listed above.
A health focused community educating families on risk factors contributing to substance use disorders, emphasizing prevention and harm reduction efforts, and engaging in compassionate care practices to better understand addiction as a complex brain disease.
CURRENT OPERATING ENVIRONMENT
Internal Strengths and Challenges
Surveys, interviews, and discussion conducted with board members, staff, and key informants/stakeholders identified CAPE’s key organizational strengths as:
- Dedicated and hard-working Executive Director and staff
- Committed board
- Excellent reputation in community
- Ability to multi-task
- Existing relationships, including with funders
- Established success
Key challenges include:
- No succession plan yet for leadership (Executive Director or board)
- Board development:
- Limited support/engagement of some board members
- Lack of clarity about board member expectations
- Limited board understanding of programs
- Other board development, like lack of comprehensive board manual and need for more board training
- Vulnerability from strong reliance on government grants/can’t provide long-term job security to staff
- Staff spread too thin/maintaining staff morale/avoiding burnout and turnover
- Lack of fund development
- Not enough fee-for-service or unrestricted/discretionary funding
External Opportunities and Threats
- CAPE’s work is supported by an environment that includes the following opportunities:
- Additional collaborations, partnerships, shared services, and even mergers
- Increased need in general for CAPE’s services due to increase in use/abuse of substances on account of bad economy
- Increased need for CAPE’s services in the schools
- Working with new customers, like businesses
- New yet related service areas, like bullying
- To capitalize on increased recognition and outstanding reputation
- Additional ways to provide fee-for-service
- Utilize technology to increase awareness and through which to provide training
- New grants
Potential threats include:
- Current economy/budget cuts/less funding
- Expectation from schools and others that services should be for free
- Competition from other organizations and from within the school system
- Continued lack of understanding about addiction by some in the community