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Holistic Operations Support: A Cure for Time Poverty?

By Kristine Maramot, Operations Support Program Manager at Rainier Valley Corps

This year, Rainier Valley Corps (RVC) expanded our mission of holistic capacity-building. One way we’re doing this is by taking on some of the pivotal but time-consuming administrative tasks for our community-based organizations (CBO) partners.

RVC’s Operations Support Program includes handling financial management, payroll, human resources, insurance, and legal compliance, as well as providing capacity-building coaching and fundraising support. While this work is vital, it can be overly complex and daunting to a lot of smaller nonprofits with limited and over-extended staff members. We at RVC have been trained and specialize in operations, and we partner with organizations to help them alleviate some of their burden so that our partners can steer more of their energies to what they do best — empowering local communities of color.

I help manage this program, and we currently have eight partners — Families of Color Seattle, Marketshare, Geeking Out Kids of Color, Rainier Beach Action Coalition, Somali Doulas, Nurturing Roots, Somali Parents Education Board, and Somos Seattle — and we’re planning to onboard a few more by the end of summer. This program is growing so fast — it’s been less than a year since implementation, which goes to show that there has been and is a need for this kind of partnership.

Time Poverty and its Damaging Effects

Time poverty is a hot topic of discussion across all industries. Ambitious people and organizations always want to do more than there is time in the day for. However, what we don’t talk about as much is how time poverty disproportionately affects people of color and women.

In a post from IDEAS xLab, a leadership development nonprofit based in Louisville, Kentucky, “Health Justice, Time Poverty and A Way Forward,” Theo Edmonds writes about Smoketown, a community of color in Louisville. There, the average life expectancy is nine years less than the Louisville average.

Edmonds writes, “Circumstances are cumulative. Parents are caught in a whirlpool of poverty which prevents them from escaping to the middle class when they grow up. Thus, catching children in the same cycle.”

However, he asserts that interventions can be effective if they are also cumulative. “For example, when a person has the family and social support systems in place to help them finish college, they triple the chances that their child will finish college. Those with higher educational attainment also have a longer life expectancy.”

How Time Poverty Affects Nonprofits

Time poverty greatly affects nonprofits, especially ones that serve communities of color. A challenge we all tend to face is that we want to split our focus in a lot of directions, from operations to programming to leadership development to staff training and continuing education to fundraising to strategic organizational growth — the list can go on and on. However, because time is so finite and because our sector is generally understaffed and overworked, we find that we lack the time to dedicate to strategies that ensure long-term success. We end up focusing more on tactical tasks or putting out the ‘fires’ of the day.

This results in a terrible cycle in which there is no time to work on capacity-building. Yet — without developing capacity — we will never break out of the time poverty loop, and we will continue to be stressed for more time as we experience burn out.

This is why we think RVC’s Operations Support Program is a potential game-changer. Although the program has only been in operation for a little over a year, and we are still learning and improving, there have been a number of positives outcomes:

Our first Operations Support partner is a nonprofit dedicated to supporting families of color through equitable parenting programs, resource sharing, and fostering connections. We took over this partner organization’s  payroll, hiring, and financial management. They’ve been thriving, in part because of our contributions, but mostly because they are amazing. They have clear vision and a deep passion for their work, which they can focus more of their time on because we took off some of their administrative burden. They are continuing to expand programming; a popular one is their family-oriented music festival.

Another of one of our partners do a lot of incredible youth work. This partner organization has a lot of youth workers that need to be onboarded and properly supported in navigating what is sometimes their first nonprofit job experience. RVC has taken on the responsibility of the logistics in hiring the youth — paperwork — which freed up our partner’s staff members to focus on their core work, such as developing a program that connects youths with community members on issues both sides are passionate about.

Growth and Progress

Prior to my current position at RVC, I had an inkling that operations was a good fit for my career. However, it’s really through RVC’s two-year Fellowship Program and working closely with our team that I’ve grown to really love operations. This is what I am meant to do. There are amazing leaders in these kinds of roles, such as Yolanda Eng at Urban Impact and Shin Shin Hsia at Win/Win Network, and I aspire to be like them.

Beyond my own professional growth, we’ve also been stunned at how quickly RVC’s operations support program has grown! We are looking to hire an additional staff member to ensure everything continues sailing smoothly. (Please help us spread the word!)

I love seeing our partner organizations grow and do the incredible work that is so needed in the community, and I feel privileged that I can play a small part in helping them to save time so they can focus on vital programs and services.

RVC’s approach is holistic, cooperative, community-oriented, and works towards the good of all. By partnering closely with our CBO partners, RVC fulfills our mission of increasing capacity for people of color-led organizations, and our partners can better position themselves to make long-lasting impacts on the communities they serve. The work our partner organizations do is substantial and important, and it’s pivotal that all of us, in our various roles, free up their time so they can do it.  

Stay up to date on the latest RVC news by subscribing to our newsletter or following this blog. For more information on becoming an Operations Support partner, please contact Ananda Valenzuela at [email protected].

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