Strategic Services

Cradle of Hope

“The quality of our vision for carrying out our mission has improved, and our growth potential has been boosted.”

– Chris Vatsaas, Board Chair, Cradle of Hope

Organizational transitions are rarely short-term. Cradle of Hope, a nonprofit that provides financial and material assistance to women and babies in crisis, first approached Propel Nonprofits (then MAP for Nonprofits) in 2014 when the board needed assistance with strategic planning.

“At the time, the board for Cradle of Hope was thinking about long-term sustainability,” said board chair Chris Vatsaas. “We needed to develop a new vision for longer term growth. We were at a critical juncture when we turned to Propel Nonprofits.”

A long-term partnership

Jenny Kramm, Strategic Services Consultant for Propel Nonprofits, worked with Cradle of Hope’s board as they underwent restructuring at both the board and staff level. Jenny continued working with Cradle of Hope’s board and new executive director in 2016 to set strategic goals. The changes have resulted in an increase in funding that allowed them to design a new website, implement an integrated database, and provide more services to those in need.

“When I started working with Cradle of Hope, the board was very much a working board,” said Jenny. “In the past three years, they’ve done the hard but necessary work of setting a vision and putting the right people in place to carry it out.” The board is now largely a governance and policy board.

Like all nonprofits, Cradle of Hope had a certain budget to work within, and one of the pieces they most appreciated about working with Propel Nonprofits was staying within that budget. “As a small nonprofit, when we bring in a consultant, we need them do what we need, but nothing else,” explained Chris. “Jenny did a good job of providing us proposals for services we needed, but didn’t add fat.”

When setting long-term goals, it’s important to have short-term action items to keep momentum going, especially to keep volunteer board members engaged. “With Jenny’s help, we walked out of our board retreat with what we had capacity to get done today, but also a to-do list for the coming year. She helped us to efficiently use that time,” said Chris.

ROI of strategic planning

In 2018, Cradle of Hope’s budget will be approximately double what it was in 2015. “This growth is a result of taking a plunge with a strategic process that we started with Jenny,” said Chris. The organization has deepened their services to offer even more touchpoints with new mothers. Rent assistance remains their highest volume program, but Cradle of Hope is growing their Safe Slumber program. They provide new mothers Pack ‘N Plays to reduce sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), sometimes called “crib death,” which disproportionately affects lower-income families not able to provide a safe sleep environment.

Cradle of Hope is also following through on their strategic goal of reaching more Greater Minnesota clients by adding partner agencies in places like Mankato and Alexandria.

Stronger vision, deeper engagement

Cradle of Hope’s Executive Director Darlene Kopesky believes the future is bright for the organization. “Thanks to the guidance we received from Propel Nonprofits, we are now equipped to establish realistic and attainable short- and long-term goals so Cradle of Hope can help even more pregnant women throughout the state,” she said. “I am confident that we will achieve our three-year goals and I am excited to focus on the future!”

Rather than being burned out through the multi-year process, Chris said the resulting growth from all the board and staff’s hard work has led to a more engaged board. “The quality of our vision for carrying out our mission has improved, and our growth potential has been boosted,” said Chris. “Because of that, I’ve seen a more motivated staff and board. We can see our future and be a lot more impactful.”

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