Staying true to mission while making growth a priority


The first week of August has Spare Key attending the Lenders One Summer Conference in Washington, D.C. to further our newly announced partnership with Lenders One and its parent company, Altisource.

At our Spare Key Groove Gala we announced that Lenders One would become our National Founding Partner and over time we would expand our program throughout the United States.

This growth is deliberately intended to take time. Time to allow us to secure the necessary resources in any new states that we add to our platform.

It also permits us to stay focused on the current platform of states we serve – Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Today, Spare Key says “Yes” more than ever before to critically ill or seriously injured children. By making housing grants on behalf of them and their families we seek to continue to grow and expand our capacity to limit the number of times we have to say “No” to families that are desperate for our support.

It’s not easy. It’s hard work. It requires a Board of Directors that is committed to effective governance but also to reaching out to their professional and personal network of relationships.

It also requires generous individual donors – corporations – foundations – and a lot of creativity and innovation by staff.

When I became Executive Director in 2012 I was woefully unprepared to understand the challenges facing a small non-profit like Spare Key. To be sure I had managed and led public and private sector operations with much larger budgets – more staff – and overall, significantly more resources.

But, those operations benefitted from their size – both financially and in terms of human resources.

Spare Key has a “huge” staff of four people serving a program that provides services to families in four states. It’s the genius of the organization that is Spare Key that has permitted the growth we have experienced in the past three years without a massive ramp up in overhead often associated with such growth.

The genius is in the organization’s single minded focus on doing what we do and doing it very well.

All too often organizations confuse growth with mission creep. And, when competition is fierce for resources it is easy to give in to the temptation to stray from the central mission of an organization.

To be sure Spare Key has made changes since it was created in 1997. However, those changes have not sent the organization down the rabbit hole of mission creep.

On the contrary, the affirmation of the Board of Directors to stay focused on its mission has been at the core of our success the past three years.

Our guidelines have been updated – rather than modified.

We have expanded the definition of a “home” to not just refer to a house but also to an apartment or condo or other structure that a family can legally call a “home.”

By expanding to new states we have stayed true to our mission and pushed back against the obvious temptations that any small non-profit faces as it deals with the challenges of resources.

When we arrive in Washington, D.C. for the Lenders One Summer Conference we approach the week with the same focus we have the past three years.

We are clear in our commitment to serve more children and their families and doing so within the framework of our mission.

The unique relationship we are creating with Lenders One offers an opportunity for thousands of families across America to find financial stability during a child’s medical crisis – as well as giving parents the time to be with their child while they recover in the hospital from their critical illness or serious injury.

It will take the necessary time to be successful and sustainable and for that we are excited about the promise and opportunity for the future.

The bottom line for both of our organizations is helping families “Bounce and not Break.”

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