Stand for Your Mission Award

Now Accepting Applications

 

BoardSource created the Stand for Your Mission Award in 2018 to recognize nonprofit boards that have established advocacy as an expectation for engaged and effective board leadership — and, by doing so, are helping their organizations realize their missions.

We are excited to announce that we are now accepting applications for the 2019 award.

The winner of the award receives $5,000 to support its work.

Application deadline: February 1, 2019

Apply Now


We encourage you to read the stories of the 2018 award winner and finalists to learn more about how advocacy accelerated their efforts to achieve their missions.

Please keep the conversation going using #StandForYourMission.

 

2018 Winning Organization

Treehouse, Seattle, WA

Honorable Mention

Vermont Afterschool Inc., Colchester, VT

Finalists

ArtsFund, Seattle, WA
Abode Communities, Los Angeles, CA
Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC), Silver Spring, MD
Children First/Communities In Schools of Buncombe County, NC
Downtown Cleveland Alliance, Cleveland, OH
Indiana Afterschool Network, Indianapolis, IN
LGBT Center OC, Santa Ana, CA
Treehouse, Seattle, WA
Vermont Afterschool Inc., Colchester, VT
Westchester Children’s Association, White Plains, NY

2018 Stand For Your Mission Award Winner


Treehouse Logo

Treehouse is a nonprofit based in Seattle, WA, that envisions a world where all children who experience foster care can pursue their dreams and become productive members of society. Fewer than 50 percent of foster youth in Washington graduate high school. The Treehouse board is focused on achieving educational equity for children and youth in foster care in Washington through policy reform and funding for educational support services. Its strategic goal is that foster youth graduate from high school at the same rate as their peers, with support and a plan to launch successfully into adulthood.

The need for advocacy becomes apparent

For many years, Treehouse took a traditional social service approach to achieving its mission. While those services addressed significant gaps in both the child welfare and school systems, Treehouse realized it could not improve youth outcomes through direct services alone. The systemic challenges reduced the power of — or served as a significant barrier to — its direct service work. If the systems did not coordinate, share data, and maximize the role and benefit of state child welfare and school services, Treehouse could work smart, long, and hard and still fail to fulfill its strategic goal of educational equity for Washington’s foster youth. Advocacy was required to persuade elected officials, agency leaders, and practitioners that there was a better way for child welfare and school districts to function and collaborate so that children and youth in foster care could experience educational and life outcomes equivalent to their peers.

Addressing the need

Staff leadership worked with board leadership to form a policy and advocacy committee to lead the board in setting and achieving the organization’s advocacy goals. Over the years, the committee chairs have partnered on an ongoing basis with staff to provide training to the full board on allowable advocacy activities and how to advocate in person ad via phone, email, and social media. This includes giving board members talking points, background information, and opportunities to practice their ‘pitch’ in board meetings, as well as providing them with template emails, Facebook posts, and Tweets that they can customize and send directly to their elected officials. The staff and board also have organized trips to the state capitol during the legislative session for board members to meet with lawmakers.

Key successes and results

With increased advocacy from the board and others, Treehouse has achieved the following over the past 15 years:

  • Minimized enrollment times when students in foster care transfer schools
  • Improved communication and data-sharing between education and child welfare systems
  • Simplified credit transfer for students in foster care entering new high schools
  • Made all youth in foster care automatically eligible for a College Bound scholarship
  • Improved school discipline policies that disproportionately impact youth in foster care
  • Increased funding for Treehouse educational support services for children and youth in foster care to more than $2.8 million annually

Advocated for the passing of bill HB-1999 in 2015 and 2016, which established the Washington legislature’s intent to make Washington first in the nation for high school graduation and college enrollment and college graduation. The bill also aligned educational support services contracts with the state education agencies rather than the child welfare agency, and laid the groundwork for significant expansion of education programs for foster youth statewide.

 

Honorable Mention, 2018 Stand For Your Mission Award


Five years ago, Vermont Afterschool Inc. — a public/private statewide partnership dedicated to supporting and sustaining innovative learning opportunities that extend beyond the school day for all of Vermont’s children and youth — focused its energies on supporting quality improvements and changes in afterschool programming solely through a professional development and training lens. Advocacy was not something it had the experience, funding, or structure to support. That changed during a stratetic planning meeting when the partners identified advocacy as key to making a real diference. This led the board to commit to working to increase access to afterschool and summer learning programs across Vermont, particularly for children, youth, and families living in poverty and in underserved areas of the state.

Acting on its commitment

The board began by ensuring that the strategic plan include a focus on advocacy. It then put the basics in place, including training on advocacy versus lobbying and modifying the organization’s financial plan to bring in more unrestricted dollars so that its leaders could afford to work with a community organizer and lobbyist and organize a grassroots campaign. In addition, to help get the policy discussions started at the state level, four board members (almost half of the board) volunteered their time to serve on a legislative working group under Vermont’s PreK-16 Council for two full years. That committee was charged by the state legislature with investigating the need for afterschool and summer programming in Vermont and developing recommendations for how to best meet that need.

Over the past two years the board also has actively supported the development and implementation of a comprehensive statewide grassroots advocacy campaign called “Zap the Gap with Afterschool & Summer Learning,” which helped build a base of local advocates and champions across the state. Board members have spent time in the Vermont State House, testified numerous times, attended legislative meetings in their districts, spoken out at budget hearings on snowy nights in the dead of winter, collected supporter cards in all areas of the state, and made a pact that no one, including the executive director, ever has to do advocacy alone. Every time the executive director goes to the state house for any meetings or to give testimony on a bill, at least one board member, usually two, accompanies her to help respond to any questions, think about strategy, and work through any challenges or requested follow up. As a result, some board members are in the state house almost every week during the legislative session to connect with legislators and to help to move the partnership’s issue forward.

Successes

As a result of this work, successes over the past three years include the following:

  • Development of an extensive database and mapping system for analyzing program location and unmet demand for afterschool and summer learning opportunities across the state
  • More than 1200 supporter cards collected statewide from new advocates and champions at the local level
  • Funding for afterschool and summer learning being included in legislative agendas of such organizations as Voices for Vermont’s Children, Hunger Free Vermont, and the Vermont Early Childhood Alliance.
  • Three comprehensive reports to the state legislature on afterschool and summer learning from the Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) Working Group under Vermont’s PreK-16 Council
  • Private foundations in Vermont adding afterschool and summer learning to their strategic funding priorities (e.g., McClure Foundation, Vermont Community Foundation, etc.)
  • Establishment of a state fund, the Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) Special Fund (Vermont Afterschool is still working on a state allocation to the fund)
  • Growth in the number of legislative champions who support the issue, request testimony on the issue, signed on as co-sponsors of a bill to create the structure around the ELO Special Fund, and who will actively speak to each other, in committees, and on the record about the value of afterschool and summer learning
  • The Vermont Child Poverty Council naming funding for afterschool and summer learning opportunities as one of their top legislative priorities for 2018
Encountering opposition

The successes did not come without challenges, however. While Vermont Afterschool was able to get a state fund established, it continues to advocate for a state allocation to that fund. Last year, the House Education Committee proposed putting $1 million in the ELO Special Fund through a funding bill. However, just before the committee could vote the bill out, one of Vermont Afterschool’s key funders changed its previously favorable position and stepped forward in opposition. Moreover, it asked Vermont Afterschool to change its position and discontinue its advocacy efforts. When the organization did not agree, the funder threatened to cancel its funding arrangement (a significant source of funding for the organization). The board’s response was to call an emergency meeting to discuss the situation. Faced with making a tough choice, it unanimously decided to follow the organization’s mission and to continue to advocate for what it clearly saw as in the best interest of the organization’s programs and partners, even at the risk of losing a key funder. It was a clarifying moment for Vermont Afterschool — choosing between a safer financial path but sacrificing a piece of its mission, or keeping its mission front and center and determining how to move forward. While the organization acknowledges that the path forward may not always be easy, the board showed bold leadership in making the tough choice for the overall good of the organization and of the field that it serves.

 

2018 Stand For Your Mission Award Finalists


ArtsFund, Seattle, WA
While advocacy has always been a pillar of its mission, ArtsFund was spurred to action in 2015 when the Washington State Legislature passed a bill allowing cities and counties to levy a tax in support of access to nonprofit arts, science, and heritage organizations. ArtsFund supported the bill’s passage for nearly a decade, and with its long-awaited approval came the opportunity to substantially increase funding for cultural organizations in its county should voters approve it by ballot initiative. To act on this opportunity, however, ArtsFund realized that it needed more focused board leadership and support around advocacy. In response, the board formed a board-led advocacy and policy committee, which enabled the organization to restore advocacy as a mission priority and expand its influence and impact. While the ballot initiative ultimately was defeated by a narrow margin, it energized the board and organization and was followed by a successful Seattle Mayoral Forum on Arts and Funding. Due to these efforts, ArtsFund is now considered a go-to counsel for policy decisions and viewed as a leader in Seattle’s cultural sector.

Abode Communities, Los Angeles, CA
The housing affordability crisis is very real in Los Angeles County, as the need for affordable housing has outpaced the production of new affordable homes for more than a decade. By 2012, there was a shortfall of almost 500,000 homes available to the county’s very low- and extremely low-income households. That is when Abode Communities, a nonprofit focused on affordable housing, decided it must commit more of its resources to policy and advocacy efforts to increase awareness of and bring much needed resources to the work of producing and preserving housing for low-income Angelinos. With the help of a fully engaged board — and, in particular, a board policy and advocacy plan — and in partnership with other trade and membership organizations, Abode Communities provided support to defeat a local ballot measure that would have halted the production of residential development in the City of Los Angeles; pass a statewide housing legislative packet aimed at the production of affordable housing in 2017, including the placement of a housing bond on the state ballot in 2018; and preserve key housing programs in the recent tax reform bill at the federal level.

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc (CLINIC), Silver Spring, MD
The past year has brought dramatic shifts in the nation’s immigration policies and enforcement priorities. As a result, CLINIC — a nonprofit that has been protecting and promoting the dignity of immigrants for 30 years in partnership with 330 community-based agencies around the country — has increasingly relied on its board members to lead its advocacy efforts at the federal and local levels. By developing a template for coordinated strategies related to advocacy, making valued connections at the local and state levels, and leading delegations to  Washington, DC, and Haiti, CLINIC’s board members  have been able to make an impact when and where it is most needed by the organization and its  constituents. Successes include the reversal of deportation orders, an extension of temporary protected status (TPS) for Haitian immigrants, and protecting the jobs of Haitian TPS holders.

Children First/Communities In Schools of Buncombe County, North Carolina
The research is clear: There is a link between economic hardship and children’s future health and education success. This is why Children First/Communities In Schools of Buncombe County has engaged in policy advocacy since its founding. However, it was during a 2007 strategic planning process that the board committed to strengthening its commitment to advocacy by developing additional infrastructure and capacity for policy advocacy and decision making. The result is a renewed culture of advocacy in the organization over the past decade. Specifically, the board and organization invested in a fulltime advocacy staff member and has increased funding to sustain it, launched of a local initiative that engages other nonprofits in policy work, increased dollars available in its county for those utilizing the state’s child care subsidy program, passed legislation raising the age of adult sentencing in North Caroline to 18 years of age, changed city policies pertaining to affordable housing, increased local bus service hours and routes, expanded the county’s summer meals program, and more. By expanding access to meet basic needs, economic mobility, and healthy early years, Children First’s advocacy has enabled it to impact more lives than its direct services can reach.

Downtown Cleveland Alliance, Cleveland, OH
Advocacy has been an inherent part of Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s mission since day one, but as essential state and federal programs continued to be put on the chopping block, the board realized it needed to be more strategic about its advocacy. So it organized an advocacy committee. Composed of board members, government officials, and downtown stakeholders, the committee meets at least quarterly to strategize how to spread the Alliance’s message to the governing bodies responsible for the fate of programs essential to its mission and encourage its constituents to do the same. As a result, the Alliance has achieved several significant victories, including helping establish and protect the Ohio Historical Preservation Tax Credit. The Downtown Cleveland Alliance board has helped amplify the organization’s mission and strategy, and make a significant difference not only within the organization, but in the Downtown Cleveland community at large.

Indiana Afterschool Network, Indianapolis, IN
According to the Afterschool Alliance’s 2014 “Indiana After 3 PM Report,” only 11 percent of K-12 Indiana youth are participating in afterschool programs. Yet, 31 percent of parents of children not in afterschool would attend programs if they were available, affordable, and accessible. In spite of the urgent need for quality afterschool programs in Indiana, the state invests less than two million dollars in out-of-school time (OST). Due to this funding lapse, the Indiana Afterschool Network has prioritized strategic initiatives focused on seeking greater investment in OST programs by moving policy and cultivating champions, and improving program quality by strengthening programs and staff. As part of these strategies, the Network has been strategically and successfully building relationships and pursuing state legislation to increase the quality of and access to OST programs across the state of Indiana. Successes include the passage of a bill establishing the Indiana Out of School Learning Advisory Board, which is tasked with researching and advising on state-level afterschool funding, and highlighting the benefits of OST programs in the recently approved Indiana Every Student Succeed Act.

LGBT Center OC, Santa Ana, CA
In the 2015-2016 California Healthy Kids Survey, 10.3 percent of LGB youth and 21.2 percent of Trans youth in Orange County, California, reported feeling unsafe or very unsafe, compared to 4.1 percent of non-LGB and 4.3 percent of non-Trans youth. Persistent statistics like these over the course of the LGBT Center OC’s existence  is why the center — with the full support and participation of its board — includes advocacy for a more equitable, welcoming, and culturally competent and accepting spaces for LGBTQ youth in schools as a central part of its mission and work. By sharing their personal mission-related stories and never wavering in their commitment to advocacy, board members have helped the organization stand up for LGBTQ youth in the past as well as now, when they are feeling less accepted than ever due to the recent turn to conservatism at the federal level of the government. To date, key successes have included changing policies and implementing staff training at several school districts in Orange County, acquiring the support of the Association of California School Administrators for a conference for school superintendents and administrators on LGBTQ youth, and training youth to become their own advocates.

Treehouse, Seattle, WA
For many years, Treehouse took a traditional social service approach to achieving its mission. While those services addressed significant gaps in both the child welfare and school systems, Treehouse realized it could not improve youth outcomes through direct services alone. Advocacy was required to persuade elected officials, agency leaders, and practitioners that there was a better way for child welfare and school districts to function and collaborate so that children and youth in foster care could experience educational and life outcomes equivalent to their peers. Staff leadership worked with board leadership to form a policy and advocacy committee to lead the board in setting and achieving the organization’s advocacy goals. The committee chairs partnered with staff to provide training to the full board on allowable advocacy activities and how to advocate in person and via phone, email, and social media. As a result of these efforts, Treehouse has accomplished much in the past 15 years. Recent successes include advocating for the passage of a bill in 2015 and 2016 bill that established the legislature’s intent to make the state of Washington first in the nation for high school graduation and college enrollment and college graduation. The bill also aligned educational support services contracts with the state education agencies rather than the child welfare agency, and laid the groundwork for significant expansion of education programs for foster youth statewide.

Vermont Afterschool, Inc., Colchester, VT
Five years ago, Vermont Afterschool Inc. focused its energies on supporting quality improvements and changes in afterschool programming solely through a professional development and training lens. Advocacy was not something it had the experience, funding, or structure to support. That changed during a stratetic planning meeting when advocacy was identified as key to moving the needle in a significant way. That epiphany led the board to stand up for its mission by working to increase access to afterschool and summer learning programs across Vermont — particularly for children, youth, and families living in poverty and in underserved areas of the state — through advocacy. There have been many successes but the board’s commitment was put to the test when a key funder of Vermont Afterschool Inc. opposed a funding bill proposed by the House Education Committee and supported by Vermont Afterschool Inc. The funder asked Vermont Afterschool Inc. to drop its support of the bill and discontinue its advocacy efforts, going so far as to say it would pull its funding of the organization if it did not do so. After much deliberation, the board unanimously decided to follow its mission and continue its advocacy efforts. It was a clarifying moment for the organization.


Westchester Children’s Association, White Plains, NY
Until last spring, New York State was one of only two states that charged 16-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. Knowing that youth involved in this system are often denied supports and services that can help them learn from their mistakes and often become further disconnected from society as a result of incarceration, Westchester Children’s Association (WCA) set about to reduce the number of youth who were involved in the criminal justice system and raise the age at which young people are adjudicated in court. It committed to leading the charge in Westchester County and joined a statewide effort that resulted, in April 2017, in the New York state legislature voting to raise the age of criminality from 16 to 18. This legislative success would not have been possible without the connections, engagement, and passion of WCA’s board members, who consistently used their personal connections to make an impact where staff could not. And, as a result of these efforts, the board has raised WCA’s profile throughout New York state and Westchester County.