Featured Case Study: Building Organizational Capacity Maximizing Impact

The Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation:  Building organizational capacity to scale services and maximize impact

With the help of Patmos Consulting and its resiliency ORG Tool, the Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation (MPCF) strengthened key elements of its organizational infrastructure in order to scale critical services for adults with cancer.

Developing a new service model to expand MPCF’s reach

Since its founding, MPCF has compassionately assisted adults with cancer by providing one-on-one counseling to its clients in person and over the phone.  While this model leverages the expert knowledge and compassionate care of MPCF’s professional staff, the narrow access point challenged both the financial and programmatic sustainability of the organization and limited its potential for impact.  With one out of two men and one of three women receiving a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lifetime, MPCF wanted to dramatically scale its geographic reach and number of clients served.

To this end, the Executive Director, Susan Hosbach, and her Board of Directors, developed a strategy to make their extensive library of resources and culture of caring available through a Web 2.0 platform in addition to walk in services.  This new programmatic approach would enable them to expand from 3,000 clients in the Middle Tennessee area to 100,000 individuals or more around the globe.  Director Hosbach recognized, however, that implementing this technology-intensive strategy and dramatically expanding the client base would require significant changes across the organization, and especially in operations and infrastructure.

Building critical capacities to support the new model

With this need in mind, MPCF responded to an invitation from a key funder, The HCA Foundation, to execute an organizational assessment tool that would identify MPCF’s strengths and vulnerabilities and evaluate its overall health against industry best practices.  The tool, called the Organizational Resiliency Gameplan Tool or “ORG Tool,” revealed a lower than expected organizational capacity, as measured by a “resiliency index score.”  In response to this result and other factors, MPCF engaged the consulting firm Patmos to identify capacity improvements and additions needed for the new online platform’s success.  After a thorough analysis of existing and needed infrastructure, Patmos made key recommendations concerning the new model’s program strategy, design phase, staffing capacity and technological infrastructure.

MPCF’s leadership invested fully into turning Patmos’ recommendations into a reality.  With the strategic changes in place, MPCF is underway in the first phase of initiating the online platform and expanding its outreach to help adults impacted by cancer gain confidence and control through easy to understand information about the cancer journey.  Furthermore, with the hard work of director, board, and staff, the organization has since retaken the ORG Tool and scored as a “resilient organization,” scoring high in its organizational capacity across all the key areas of an effective organization: financial and organizational management; governance; resource generation; programmatic; and operations and infrastructure.

Reflecting on the process

Despite a challenging economic climate, MPCF made the decision to invest in staff expansion and operations and infrastructure improvements, and is well underway with reaching reach more people and maximize its impact as a result.  In addition to leveraging the expertise and advice of Patmos, the following core elements of MPCF’s culture and infrastructure enabled it to achieve this success:

  • An engaged and committed Board of Directors. MPCF’s Board demonstrated a strong commitment to raising the needed resources for implementing the new model successfully, and continues to identify and cultivate potential partners for long-term engagement.
  • Strong executive leadership. Executive Director Susan Hosbach played a crucial role in both the organizational assessment and the capacity-building efforts that followed.  Her eagerness to make MPCF a learning organization initiated the entire process, and her leadership made it possible to turn the recommendations into a reality. 
  • Greater emphasis on developing, tracking, and assessing program goals. MPCF pushed for greater clarity around program goals, outcomes and measurements.  This involved a review of their current program objectives in light of the new model and creating a more intentional focus upon metrics and tracking through staff use of the organization’s content management system.
  • Effective use of technology to deliver programming. MPCF adapted technology it had already invested in to create the platform for its new online system and will make it possible for people living with cancer to access MPCF”s.  Adapting the existing technology rather than investing in a new platform kept down costs and leverage existing staff knowledge.

This case study is co-authored by Sarah Allen and John Hilley. Sarah is a researcher and consultant formerly with Arabella Philanthropic Advisers and currently lives in India.  John is founder of Patmos LLC.  Patmos Consulting provides its software and services through its product line: www.mygameplan.org.