In June of 2009, eight south suburban Chicago non-profit organizations that serve individuals with developmental disabilities came together to discuss the potential for sharing resources and leveraging their collective purchasing power given the present and foreseeable budget challenges of the State of Illinois. After a year of discussion, six of the eight formed Community Service Partners (CSP), a non-profit organization established to work with other non-profits to create shared resources, enabling member agencies to use more of their funding on programs and less on administrative costs.
The six member organizations are Charleston Transitional Facility, New Hope Services, Park Lawn Center, Sertoma Centre, SouthSTAR Services, and Southwest Community Services.
CSP adopted the mission “to design and share business functions to achieve the most efficient resources, resulting in its member organizations delivering high quality person centered services in their local communities.”
CSP was incorporated in the summer of 2010. In November of 2010, a CEO was hired, partially funded by the Coleman Foundation. This support allowed the organization to establish its initial services offering information technology (IT) and staff training as well as to explore future lines of business such as transportation, employee recruitment and bulk purchasing.
In its first year, CSP’s IT department developed an e-ticket system that was introduced to the member organizations. The e-ticket system allows for a computer user at a member organization to fill out a form via the internet detailing an issue that they were having regarding IT. Then a CSP-employed technician could respond to the e-ticket and resolve the issue. CSP was able to resolve 2,323 IT issues from members.
Also in its first year, CSP was able to combine member agencies training programs into one collaborative initiative for Direct Service Professional (DSP) Training.
- The information technology service line resulted in savings of more than $100,000 across the six members.
- The staff training service line generated over $90,000 in savings across the six members.
- Due diligence was completed on a future transportation network which will provide more efficient use of current assets.
- An overall satisfaction survey was given to its key stakeholders by CSP with results as follows:
- 100% of respondent were satisfied with the success of CSP
- 82% of respondents were satisfied with CSP increasing efficiencies
- 81% of respondents were satisfied with CSP meeting the needs of the emerging populations of the member organizations.
- 87% of respondents were satisfied with CSP saving its organization money.
- Overall, IT’s e-ticket system was well received. 92% of end users that responded to a survey in December of 2011 rated the system as average or above. Other results were:
- 95% said the e-ticket system was easy to use
- 95% felt that the CSP technician was knowledgeable
- 93% felt that their agency’s IT has improved under CSP
- 96% of all e-tickets were resolved within one business day and all e-tickets were resolved in two business days.
Key Lesson Learned: Board involvement important
Each of the six organizations has its own board of directors and they were involved early in the process of developing Community Service Partners. In April of 2011 CSP brought all of these board members together again to report about the progress and the plans for the future of CSP. During this meeting CSP heard from several board members that they would like to become more involved. After that meeting, CSP developed a Board Committee that meets quarterly to hear firsthand about the progress of CSP. This has resulted in the committee exploring interim Executive Directors, executive transition management, and reporting of CSP success to its board of directors.
Key Lesson Learned: CSP must be visible in the community
CSP learned early that trust was a major factor for other non-profits when examining the opportunity to share administrative resources. Often nonprofit leaders were skeptical of CSP as an organization wanting to provide administrative supports to their agency. In order for the agency and the leadership to trust CSP, it was necessary to work with them in the community on different projects and/or community groups. CSP became actively involved in United Way’s South Suburban Leadership Council and South Suburban Council on Homelessness, establishing trust which led to CSP taking the lead role in the forming of the South Suburban Transportation Network (a network that provides transportation to residents of the south suburbs for employment, health and social services reasons). Furthermore, this relationship has helped identify agencies as potential customers. Five such agencies have become new customers of CSP.
Key Lesson Learned: Leadership from the member organizations is a key factor to the success of a shared administrative model
Organizers felt that the shared administrative model would not work unless member organizations had “buy in” from their leadership. Early on, CSP realized that key leadership staff of member agencies needed to have this “buy in” or they could sabotage the process and make it difficult to accomplish CSP’s goals. To establish the necessary buy-in, CSP made sure that all affected decision makers in an agency took an active role in developing a service/product that would be offered back to the member agency.