strategy & planning

By: Tara Levy

When any of us start something, we hope it will be a success. Even more so, perhaps, when mission and a cause propels the launch of a new organization to address a deeply embedded issue, the desire for success, the need for success, is even more imperative. But what happens when the nonprofit is successful beyond its initial goals? What happens when a nonprofit faces rapid organizational growth over a short time? Sounds like a good problem to have! Yet making a smooth transition to a larger organization, at scale, is a task unto itself.

This is the challenge currently faced by Texas Health Action (THA), an Austin-based organization dedicated to sexual health and wellness and the elimination of HIV by empowering the entire community through education, healthcare, and advocacy. The organization was founded in 2015 by a group of individuals in Austin who came together to provide access to the HIV prevention drug, commonly known as PrEP or PEP.  Within six weeks of their initial meeting, the first clinic—originally called the Austin PrEP Access Project, which eventually became the Kind Clinic—was open and seeing patients thanks to volunteers, donated space, and individual donors—truly a bootstrap operation. The clinic started accepting patients one weekend day each week, but the need was obvious and appointments booked quickly even as they started offering appointments multiple nights per week. At one point the organization was seeing a steady 12% increase in the number of clients each month.

Now, just two years after it was first founded, the organization has 20 FTEs and the opportunity to scale operations beyond Austin. Nonprofit Elements is partnering with THA to manage this growth and address some key questions, including:

  • How do we maintain the spirit of what started as an all-volunteer organization as we move to having a professional staff?
  • How do we shift into strategic, long-range planning mode?
  • How can we staff up our organization for flexibility as we grow?
  • What skills should we develop internally and which do we outsource?
  • How do we scale our financial model and systems sustainably and effectively?
  • What is the proper level of policies and procedures needed to establish for a statewide organization with local sites?

With the excitement and traction the organization was seeing, it’s easy to feel like everything has to be done at once. THA made the decision to methodically analyze the organization with the help of Nonprofit Elements. The first step was to interview staff, volunteers, and board members to understand the strengths and opportunities of the organization. THA used this context and perspective that we provided as a launchpad for fleshing out an organizational structure that could meet the organization’s needs today and in the future.

Simultaneously, we are working shoulder-to-shoulder to develop processes and procedures to support the organization and transition from organic growth to structured growth. This summer, THA adopted a model that allows for the development of multiple local clinics under a statewide management and operating structure. THA has broken ground on a new, dedicated clinic site to expand local services. Next up is a big step toward expansion: hiring the organization’s first CEO to champion the elimination of AIDS and HIV in Texas.

Throughout the last few months, Nonprofit Elements has been by their side, partnering to make smart moves and strategic decisions to set the organization for success. We’re excited for THA’s future and the ultimate success of their mission. The commitment and vision of this cadre of health care leaders, who first envisioned the initial clinic in 2015, has grown as they work through these questions and build a cutting-edge organization for the future.

Nonprofit Elements can help you manage your organization’s growth, be it exponential or steady (or slower than you’d like!). With focused analysis and comprehensive services, we can assist in managing the issues that arise.

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