In this case study, one organization turns a list of human resources challenges into new success with pro bono.
Latin United Community Housing Association (LUCHA) supports low-to-moderate income Latino families as they navigate home ownership by combatting displacement and preserving affordable housing. LUCHA provides educational courses and a counseling program focused on the home-buying, renting and maintenance process. In addition, LUCHA manages affordable housing units in the community and provides grants and reasonable loans to assist their clients to overcome housing financial roadblocks. Since its founding in 1982, LUCHA has helped more than 68,000 families gain access to affordable housing. Now, they found themselves facing unexpected human resources challenges.
LUCHA approached Taproot for human resources support in December 2014. Due to budget constraints, the organization struggled to update outdated and inefficient HR and administration policies. In an application to the Taproot Foundation, LUCHA elaborated on their human resources challenges, noting specifically that they needed help addressing:
- outdated and/or imprecise evaluative instruments,
- time sheets which are not linked to a cost-allocation plan
- inefficient benefits administration
- an employee handbook which needs to be updated and expanded to address LUCHA’s current reality.
LUCHA’s Executive Director, Juan Carlos Linares, explained, “Human resources can be an overlooked need in the nonprofit sector because the best nonprofits are known for their services to the community, but we have to be able to run ourselves like a company financially and in our human resource practices.”
Taproot awarded LUCHA a Human Resources Capacity build (HRCB) Service Grant, valued at $55,000, which would help the organization develop a better evaluation process, cost-allocations, benefits administration and an employee handbook. LUCHA hoped the project would reduce staff turnover and bolster the recruitment of future employees. The project kicked off in January 2014 and was led by the Account Director, Vicki Burger, an HR professional with over 15 years of experience. After being assigned to the project, Vicki hand-picked a project manager, an HR strategist, and two HR generalists from Taproot’s pool of pro bono consultants to complete the project.
The volunteer team completed eight internal interviews with LUCHA staff and successfully collected a capacity assessment from other staff and board members. Using this information, the Taproot team assessed LUCHA in relation to the nine areas of human resources and developed findings in three areas (hiring, performance management, and employee relations) to tackle immediately with quick-fixes. The quick-fixes included a general job description format, a current job description for LUCHA’s Administrative Manager, a projected job description for a Human Resources Manager, and a Conflict Resolution Policy.
Theses quick-fixes were presented to LUCHA’s board and leadership team at the conclusion of the Service Grant with suggestions for future steps based on the prioritized HR plan. Mr. Linares was pleased with this process. He said, “They [pro bono consultant team] showed where our priority needs were in terms of improving processes. We already knew some of the areas we needed to improve, but did not know how to articulate it through a framework.”
Some of the other areas they brought up we had never thought about. I loved that they also showed us the areas where we were doing well.
Mr. Linares reported that the prioritized action plan developed by the pro bono consultant team has been a guiding force in the implementation of their growth strategy and determining next steps with the board of directors. In the six months since the project ended, LUCHA has implemented a bi-annual employee conflict resolution training, thanks to the conflict resolution policy and subsequent training that the Taproot pro bono consultant team added to the updated employee handbook. Mr. Linares reported, “Every organization has conflict between individuals and departments. Having a conflict resolution policy puts in people’s consciousness that we have a structure. Now it is possible to improve communication.” In addition, LUCHA transferred this new knowledge by scaling the conflict resolution training. Now, they can share it with clients to improve their interactions with landlords and neighbors.
Additionally, Mr. Linares reported that LUCHA has been able to utilize the job description template and current job description for Administration Manager to improve the functioning of LUCHA’s current Administrative Manager, Maria Galarza. These resources significantly reduced LUCHA’s inefficiency in hiring and clarified the roles of current employees. Looking forward, Mr. Linares is excited to tackle Volunteer Management, a function of human resources LUCHA had not contemplated before, with the creation of a platform that will make it easier to track and recruit volunteer contributions.
“LUCHA was extremely lucky to have a team to dig deep and dig out all the dirt of our HR policies.”
They are excited to work with Taproot again and applied for a Visual Identity & Brand Strategy Service Grant in March 2015.
This project was made possible by the generous support of JP Morgan Chase.