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Housing Success Means Investments in Human Capital

PHOTO: "Crisis mode" isn't healthy for any business, and it's not good for nonprofits, either. Corporation for Supportive Housing changed the way it thinks about employees this year - in order to be seamless in working to erase homelessness. Photo credit: fotolia
PHOTO: "Crisis mode" isn't healthy for any business, and it's not good for nonprofits, either. Corporation for Supportive Housing changed the way it thinks about employees this year - in order to be seamless in working to erase homelessness. Photo credit: fotolia
December 30, 2013

LOS ANGELES - "Crisis mode" isn't healthy for any business, and it's not good for nonprofits, either. The Corporation for Supportive Housing, which works in California and many other states to erase homelessness, has long believed that. And after a good look at their own employees, they've got a new plan in place to make sure they avoid that mode, too.

According to CEO Deborah De Santis, they learned to put together succession plans, and to identify and train future leaders.

"You have to have very talented, skilled people who are passionate about their work," she said. "And it's the difference between being a reactive organization versus a pro-active organization and it's important for us to be pro-active."

De Santis said that when a key person left this year, instead of being paralyzed, as had happened in previous transitions, they already had a list of possible replacements and were able to fill the position quickly. She added that their goal is to be seamless in providing help to solve homelessness.

James Shepard, CEO of AchieveMission, helped CSH through the process of changing the way they think about employees. He said the public generally thinks nonprofits' biggest challenge is money, but he claimed that's not usually true.

"And for many, many, many nonprofits it is the people that is the impediment to their growth," he cautioned. "And so finding ways to make sure you have the right people set up for success is the determining factor of your success."

Shepard has found that nonprofits are often leery of examining their employee structures in much the way big corporations do, because of the cost in time and money, but he said having plans in place save on both.

CSH's experience is documented in a case study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation as an example to other nonprofits.

That study, "A Smart Investment in Human Capital," is at goo.gl/uoyFHP.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - CA