You might say the past few years have been a whirlwind for the Catherine McAuley Center. Besides the pandemic and derecho, the organization also wrapped up a capital campaign, moved into a new building, and experienced exponential demand for services when hundreds of Afghan refugees arrived in Iowa. Still, while the organization responded to each new challenge, they managed to stay focused on the future.
Back in 2014, the Center developed a strategic plan that carried them through the next seven years, culminating in a capital campaign and a new facility. By the summer of 2020, that campaign had come to a close and the organization had accomplished the goals outlined in the plan, creating a sense of optimism and momentum—even as pandemic challenges loomed. But then, just four weeks after moving into their new space, a derecho tore through Eastern Iowa, damaging nearly every property in Linn County, including the new Catherine McAuley Center.
“Our first leadership meeting was in the hallway of the only undamaged area of the building,” said Paula Land, Executive Director.
Even with a damaged facility, organizational leadership moved forward with outlining how the Center could use their expanded space to serve the community. With help from a $20,000 Organization Support Grant from the Community Foundation, they set out to develop a strategic plan and the organization’s leadership structure. Throughout the capital campaign, the Center had engaged with a wide range of stakeholders—the strategic planning process would be no different.
“We have a much larger staff now, so we had to engage with them on a different level this time,” said Peggy Rubero, Director of Human Resources & Organizational Development. “We created focus groups to hear from not only staff, but also clients, other agencies, community members, and even former staff.”
The focus groups helped the Center develop a strategic plan that builds on its strong foundation in a way that works for the organization, the people they serve, and the employees and volunteers serving the community. That plan also draws on lessons recently learned.
“This is meant to be a living document, not set in stone,” Paula said. “As we’re presented with new challenges and opportunities, we want to be able to respond to those while connecting the work back to our strategic plan.”
Of course, a strategic plan is nothing without a strong team to carry it out. After years of growth, the Center saw a need to step back and evaluate their leadership team structure. The grant funding allowed them to engage a consultant who could provide a valuable outside perspective, helping staff think about who they are, how they interact with the community, and where there might be room for growth and improvement. As a result, the Center reorganized some of their programs and staff to provide clearer sets of responsibilities as the team engages with the new plan.
Staff will also benefit as individuals, as one of the plan’s priorities is building staff skills and knowledge. “We’re excited to be more intentional about growth and not just responding to what is thrown at us,” Paula said. “And we’re also committed to career development opportunities for our staff. As a team, we’re focused not just on what we’re doing, but how we’re doing it, and that feels really good.”
To learn more about grants at the Community Foundation, click here.
To learn more about the Catherine McAuley Center, click here.