Getting Focused: Virginia Poverty Law Center

Virginia Poverty Law Center Retreat

Even organizations not in the throes of long-term strategic planning need to take a deep breath and reassess from time to time.

That’s what the staff of the Virginia Poverty Law Center (VPLC) did this spring – gathering at the gorgeous Rosslyn Retreat Center overlooking the James River – to map out its core competencies and short-term stra tegic opportunities.

The VPLC is staffed largely by lawyers, each working in a functional area – like housing – to provide education, support and representation to lower income Virginians who need legal assistance. VPLC also trains attorneys throughout Virginia, and partners with local Legal Aid organizations.

In addition to working through the basic block-and-tackle conversations about staff changes, organizational finances and day-to-day activities, the staff explored several bigger issues during this daylong session with Floricane.

There was some spirited brainstorming and discussion about the best ways for a small, decentralized staff to provide each other with feedback and for newer employees to have more frequent opportunities to evaluate their performance. A number of new ideas also emerged around ways for the nonprofit to creatively expand and diversify its funding model.

By the end of the day, the entire staff was aligned around a set of words that exemplified the organization they aspire to be in the eyes of those they serve. These words — characteristics — culled from dozens of colorful Post-It Notes, are:

Helpful. Knowledgeable. Caring. Troubleshooters. Leaders. Responsive. Fighters. Nonjudgmental.

That’s the sort of organization I’d like in my corner. Wouldn’t you?

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