New Approaches Require Looking Inward

SOURCE was founded on the idea that fresh perspectives can increase a nonprofit’s efficiency and effectiveness, helping it carry out its mission and better help the local community. The nonprofits we serve are often organizations that have been mainstays in the Claremont community for decades, some even approaching a century of service. These nonprofits and their members have accumulated countless invaluable insights about nonprofit management, however, new approaches can still help them address pain points and deficiencies. Deviating from time-honored traditions and assumptions brings unexpected challenges, but ultimately, the potential to increase community impact makes it worthwhile.

Pilgrim Place is a retirement community in Claremont founded in 1915 for individuals who have dedicated their lives doing missionary or nonprofit work. A large organization with 323 current residents, it serves the Claremont community by providing care for residents, making their Health Services Center available to the local community,  and organizing cultural events such as the annual Pilgrim Place Festival. At the Festival, residents sell their homemade arts, crafts, and collectibles to raise profits for a fund that supports fellow residents. Festival perfectly showcases the creativity and talent that residents exhibit and exemplifies the love and mutual support that permeates throughout  Pilgrim Place community.

 The Pilgrim Place Strategic Vision Committee came to SOURCE with the goal to  find and implement new channels of revenue, allowing residents to shoulder a smaller portion of the financial burden in annual fees. Together, we decided that setting up an online Etsy store to sell arts and crafts made by residents would be a fruitful way to generate new revenue and simultaneously promote the Pilgrim Place brand.

 Although both the SOURCE team and the Pilgrim Place Strategic Vision Committee were on-board with the project, we had several concerns, and new questions popped up at every turn. Residents have been selling their art at the annual Festival for years, and Pilgrim Place has never attempted an art retail r project before. Would residents even be interested in donating their art to sell online? Would this project cut into the product supply for the annual Festival? How could we craft a brand for the Etsy store that was differentiated from, yet still clearly connected to Pilgrim Place? Ultimately, these questions all boil down to deeper considerations of Pilgrim Place’s vision for the future of the organization— how they wish to be perceived by others, and how this project impacts the backbone of the organization—the residents themselves. Thus, addressing these questions required and will continue to require extensive, critical self-reflection on behalf of everyone involved in the project.

We are still in the process of solidifying the branding, resident buy-in, and logistics of the store, but by beginning to consider these foundational questions and keeping the big picture in mind, we are steadily making progress toward implementation. With market research deliverables, an inventory tool, and initial branding materials, we are hoping to begin beta-testing the store next spring. Although this project strategy is new to Pilgrim Place, we hope that it will help the them further their  vision in the Claremont community.

 Stay tuned for a link to the Etsy store when it goes up, and meanwhile check out http://www.pilgrimplace.com!

by andria tattersfield