Reflections from a Semifinalist: New York Common Pantry

New York Common Pantry is one of ten organizations selected as a semifinalist for the 2015 New York Community Trust Nonprofit Excellence Awards.
Stephen Photo
By Stephen Grimaldi, Executive Director, New York Common Pantry

I like to say that New York Common Pantry is a learning organization. And the Nonprofit Excellence Awards process itself, which we’ve followed far enough to be named one of this year’s semifinalists, is a valuable opportunity to learn—just as its designers intended. It’s also a chance for self-examination. While it hasn’t led to wholesale changes, the process underlined things we already knew we needed to do, and pushed us to accelerate efforts.

Notable is our Human Resources structure. When we started the process the way we did HR reflected some realities from when we were a very small agency. We have been growing quickly and knew our HR capacity needed beefing up. But reflecting while we wrote our application caused me to push ahead with Board and staff, so that just over a year later we’ve made real changes–completely re-writing our personnel manual, adding both days and flexibility to staff benefit time, hiring our first HR Associate, and scheduling one-to-one conversations with the Executive Director for employees across the agency, regarding job satisfaction, how well we’re fulfilling our mission, personal goals, or anything else they feel it’s important to share.

The application process pushed us to re-double efforts to ensure diversity and cultural competence, leading to a cross section of key Board, senior management and staff undergoing training with the Society for Diversity this year. It also stressed once again the importance of stories and specific examples in telling about the work we do, which helped us to re-balance the focus placed on the stories of participants, guests, and frontline staff in our communications. We’re happy the Awards process has confirmed that a lot of what we’re doing works, but it’s also confirmed our efforts can always be improved. We’re eager to get feedback on the next round, and ready to make changes based on what we learn.

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