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A Not-for-Profit Dilemma

Like many Not-for-Profits, Transformation Life Center in Nashville started as a volunteer organizations. It was born from a vision by Demetrius and Vanessa Short that literacy and mentorship are critical components of keeping black youth in their community out of the “pipeline to prison” with their public school systems underfunded, their volunteer organization plays a critical role for families in east Nashville. Building on ten years of successes with volunteers delivering their programs, they have earned the confidence of Nashville’s philanthropy community grant funding is looking likely, to enable expanding the program to additional elementary and high schools sites.

If funding becomes available, should they use it for staff to deliver the programs, of for an infrastructure organization to support volunteers?

There is no question that paid staff will bring consistency to program delivery. They can expand more rapidly, literacy will improve, and there will be measurable outcomes to validate their funders’ investment.

However, mentorship is part of TLC’s mission. Continuing to staff the program and if staffing continues with volunteers and Board member, these youth come in contact with successful members of the black community to become role models, in addition to teaching reading, vocabulary and financial literacy.

Either way, it’s time to build a light infrastructure. How much of that should support program delivery by paid staff or how much should support volunteer recruitment and coordination is an important decision going forward.

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