by Jessica Carreras
FERNDALE – The Affirmations Board of Directors held their annual meeting at the center on May 26, during which they unveiled preparations for the launch of their new strategic plan and second phase of the capital campaign effort, the first phase of which raised donations mainly to fund the construction of their current building, opened in 2007.
Since then, like many other businesses and organizations, the center has been hard-hit by Michigan’s economic struggles, including significant losses in personal donations and corporate grants. The largest cuts came from the Big Three auto companies.
In 2009, revenue dropped almost 40 percent, from $1.3 million in the year prior to $823,000 last year. However, that loss was somewhat recouped because of a $215,000 drop in spending last year, $140,000 of which came from vacant positions and temporary pay cuts for senior-level staff.
“During the last year, Affirmations has focused significantly on economic struggles,” explained Board President George Westerman. “The continued economy has really plagued the organization. We’ve made it through another economically challenging year in tact.”
The next phase of fundraising, Westerman continued, will focus on three key areas: operational excellence, fiscal health and managing growth. Though all three have been goals of the organization in the past, the new plan will specifically direct funds to paying off Affirmations’ mortgage on their building. “Our goal is to raise enough money in the next six months to pay off mortgage,” said Treasurer Mark Blanke.
The new phase is called Campaign for the Future. “We plan to raise a little over a million dollars to address those three areas,” Westerman said. “That’s in process. It will be a much smaller campaign and focus on our fiscal health rather than building infrastructure.”
Along with the new fundraising campaign, the Affirmations board announced plans to begin a new strategic planning process during which, Westerman said, “we’re going to do something that we’ve never done as an organization.”
“We’re looking at entering into our next strategic planning cycle in a completely different way than we’ve ever done before,” he continued. “We’re putting together a constituent-compliant strategic plan.”
Similar to the effort executed by Equality Michigan in the months after the merger was announced – and aided by the same consulting company they used – Affirmations plans to gather large amounts of community input through focus groups, town halls and other similar actions.
All this will most likely take six months, and is contingent upon a grant Affirmations hopes to secure by mid-June. Afterward, they’ll begin the process.
“We’ll be assembling a committee to execute the plan,” explained Westerman. “That committee will not just include board members, but also volunteers from the community. It will take a little bit of time to get that together because we will be thoughtful about who is on that.”
The resulting plan, he added, hopefully will “focus on getting significant input from the community that we serve, and make sure that we are addressing the needs that the community voices.”