This week I, along with Spare Key’s Board President, met with a representative of MAPS for Non-Profits to begin discussion of our organization’s first strategic planning retreat in more than five years.
Founded in 1997 Spare Key has had its share of ups and downs and challenges, like many other small non-profits, throughout the years.
It has seen periods of growth and contraction. Moments when it was an open question as to whether it would be able to continue to serve critically ill or seriously injured children by making housing payments on behalf of their family.
I remember meeting with Spare Key Founders, Robb and Patsy Keech, shortly after I accepted the role of Spare Key’s Executive Director in 2012
Their son, Derian, and his struggles after his birth became the foundation upon which Spare Key would ultimately be founded. Not long after his birth it was discovered that Derian had a serious heart condition.
For 2 ½ years he went through a series of major heart surgeries resulting in lengthy hospital stays. As the bills piled up and the need to stay with Derian while he recovered in the hospital kept both parents from being able to work they found it more and more difficult to keep making their housing payments.
When their friends and families stepped forward to make sure they never missed a housing payment the foundation for Spare Key was laid.
Not long after Derian earned his Angel Wings Spare Key began a mission that, today, has served more than 2,800 children with nearly $2.9 million in housing grants on behalf of their family.
It was in the conversation with Robb and Patsy that they recounted the opportunities and challenges that had faced Spare Key throughout the years. But through it all the organization survived and continued.
As Patsy explained, “It always seems that the right people show up at the right time to lead the organization.”
Three years after that meeting I am mindful of Patsy’s perspective as we begin the process for planning for Spare Key’s next chapter and future.
Significant changes have taken place at Spare Key since 2012.
One of the first changes we made was bringing our guidelines up to date to more accurately reflect the delivery of health care to critically ill or seriously injured children.
In place of a requirement that children had to spend a minimum of 21 days in the hospital to qualify we reduced the number of stays to fourteen days.
We also dramatically increased our outreach to Social Workers to encourage them to submit more applications on behalf of families to qualify for our program.
In 2013 after having only served families in Minnesota Spare Key expanded its program to three additional states.
Later that year we also dropped the requirement that a family had to be a homeowner to qualify for our housing grant assistance. Today Spare Key makes no distinction between a renter or a homeowner when it comes to supporting them during their child’s health crisis.
In 2014 much of the groundwork that was laid from 2012 and 2013 began to bear fruit.
Last year we served nearly 540 families compared to 209 in 2012.
The key to this success, at its core, has been a Spare Key Board of Directors that has supported this growth, helped to raise the resources to fuel the growth and has been willing to stretch our goals and objectives to continue to serve as many critically ill or seriously injured children as possible.
In March we announced, along with Lenders One and Altisource, a joint effort to expand Spare Key throughout the United States. This unique partnership offers Spare Key an orderly and sustainable opportunity to serve more families than ever before throughout America.
With opportunities come challenges and it is because of that Spare Key staff and its Board of Directors will gather in September to consider how Spare Key will achieve its goals and objectives over the next five to ten years.
It’s an exciting time for Spare Key. Our path to where we are today has not been easy.
It has required the dedication of a very small team of staff – the support and passion of our Board of Directors – and the generosity of the thousands of individuals, organizations, foundations and businesses that have stepped forward to support our mission with dollars and expertise.
The organization’s future will require a continued commitment from each of them to be successful.
Planning has been at the core of Spare Key’s success for the past three years.
Planning for its success for the next 18 years will be at the core of its ability to help families “Bounce and not Break.”