As I look back, I am amazed at how our agency has evolved due to the nuturing and support provided by ACAM over the past several years - tech nology, personnel, an expanded and active fund-raising Board. ACAM recognizes that outreach ministries do, indeed, too often focus so much activity and resource on "outreach" that they neglect to develop their infrastructure. By providing trainings, meetings where members can discuss best (and not so best) practives with their peers, a variety of resources and constructive evaluations, ACAM helps each of its member agencies to grow to their full potential and beyond.
ACAM has been instrumental in the growth and development of services within the faith-based community that is providing basic needs to the Greater Houston area. Their deliberate approach to capacity building has not only impacted staff leadership within their non-profit membership, but has strengthened board and community involvement as well. I have been a part of this organization as an Executive Director of one of its members, since its inception under the ZCAM project over 7 years ago. I have seen member organizations expand infrastructure, develop programs, create community collaborations, increase revenue, improve efficiency and effectiveness, and increaes staff knowlwedge - all leading to an overall improve of programs and services. ACAM also evaluates their member's progress, and measures impact through its detailed evaluation process which in turn provide a road map for other funders, and future duplication of the program's model in other communities. I am now assisting by leading internal committees and am a member of the Board of Director's representing the Executive Director membership.
ACAM is a much needed organization. It helps all peoples,churches,and provides opportunity for communication,consultation among funders and resource professionals. ACAM is a SAINT to many people and very much appreciated.
I could write about ACAM from many perspectives, but one that is perhaps most profound to me personally is ACAM in its role as an agent for collaboration. Collaboration is a term that is often used in the nonprofit world, but rarely is the concept as fully fleshed out as it is with ACAM and its member community assistance ministries. The kind of collaboration that ACAM inspires and enacts is solves real problems and produces tangible results. It is not collaboration "in name only." Those members that choose to participate (all collaborative projects are voluntary for members) are at the table shaping the project and contributing to its success. ACAM's role as a convener of like-minded organizations is critical because though many organizations have wonderful intentions of working together to develop much-needed programs and enhance organizational efficiencies, many times those intentions are left unfulfilled because it takes significant time, tangible resources and careful coordination to make collaborations successful. Collaborative projects such as providing free mental health services one day a week at various member locations, boosting back-to-school relief for children in need, preventing homelessness for families effected by the economic downturn and others are a tribute to ACAM, its members and the other community partners ACAM has engaged. The results not only help those in the community change their lives for the better, but they also equip excellent organizations to be ready for future community needs.
ACAM has taken on an essential but under-appreciatd task of being an intermediary between organizations that have taken on the task of being part of the social safety net for the Houston-Galveston area and a very sympathetic and supportive public that nevertheless does not fully appreciate how much more effective a charitable organization can be when it is financially strong, competently led and networked with other like-minded members. ACAM advocates for these organizations, facilitates their communication, raises capacity-building funds for them and, to use an overused but nontheless true cliche, has the backs of Houston area community assistance ministries. I am priviledged and proud to be part of its story.
ACAM’s funding allows EFBHNM to take it to the next level. We are better equipped to serve our clients with state of the art computers and a database which allows for a highly efficient screening process and more accurate reporting. The staff benefits tremendously through the workshops and networking made possible by ACAM, while the support I receive, from the ACAM staff and other ED’s, helps me grow professionally. Just knowing I can pick up the phone and call my colleagues for support makes it all worthwhile.
Two years ago, I was appointed Executive Director of Interfaith Caring Ministries (ICM). As an employee of the agency for over a decade, I have watched as my agency became a member of ZCAM (the pilot phase of ACAM), and then watched as ZCAM matured into ACAM, now an independent 501(c)(3). Now, as Executive Director, I no longer watch - I am an active participant in the ACAM collective.
Over the last 2 years, I have realized so much about what challenges an Executive Director. I learned that I can’t make everyone happy, that I can’t get all of my work done in 40 hours a week and that meeting agency budget goals can be difficult in an unstable economy. But increasingly what I’ve come to realize are all the things that I CAN do - much of it due to the incredible support I have received through ACAM.
I can admit I don’t know how to deal with a personnel issue, but more importantly I can find others that have dealt with the same issue and get some great suggestions. Access to the trainings provided by ACAM has helped both me and my staff learn ways to keep lines of communication open.
I can share that our sales are down at the resale shop, but more importantly I can call on my peers to find creative ways to significantly increase the revenue that is vital to sustaining our programming. The ACAM Thrift Store Institute has helped my staff immeasurably with training on pricing, merchandizing, marketing and everything in between.
ICM has received almost $400,000 from ACAM for capacity building projects, professional development and needed services, but just as important as the grant funds is the technical assistance and guidance that allows my agency to leverage the funds and increase their impact in the community. In addition, my agency was awarded funding through the collaborative initiatives program that we were only able to access as part of the collective.
We can't anticipate the next food shortage, hurricane or recession. That's not our job. What we can do is work together through ACAM to create a strong infrastructure whose job it is to respond to crises as they happen.
One of the most valuable and rewarding experiences has been participating in the Executive Director Networking Group. Every month I look forward to sitting around that table of 12 and learning to be a better leader. Maybe it comes from hours and hours of committee meetings or the knowledge that many of them are just a phone call away. Whatever it is, I am a stronger, more confident leader and Interfaith Caring Ministries is a stronger agency because of our affiliation with ACAM.
ACAM is an extraordinary example of collaboration at its finest. The ACAM model provides exceptional opportunities for communication, consultation and connections among collaborating funders, ministries and resource professionals. As a Ministry Executive Director, it is an honor to be associated with this visionary organization which promotes and facilitates the building of my agency's capacity in such meaningful ways. We benefit from being part of a larger organization of resources, from being exposed to new and best practices, from networking with other Ministry professionals, and from being held accountable for our growth. Houston's neighbors in need benefit exponentially because of the high engagement relationship between funders, consultants, ministries and their Boards.
I have had the great privlege of volunteering for ACAM over the last couple of years, and I always greatly enjoy it. They really care about the community and the agenices in the communities. I have gained expereince and knowlege that has helped me better serve my community and those in need.
I feel privileged to have worked on some communication projects with ACAM over the past few years. What a great concept this organization has! CAMs are already great providers of services to people in need, but ACAM helps them coordinate their efforts and resources so more people can be helped. ACAM builds the capacity of member agencies by providing education and training. ACAM also provides networking opportunities so CAM personnel can brainstorm, share best practices, and further their professional growth. The collaborative efforts of ACAM truly strengthens our community's safety net.
ACAM helps area ministries fulfill their mission, by bringing like organizations together. The member agencies have benefited through co-learning opportunities and sharing strengths and weaknesses so they can grow and thrive. These organizations are scattered throughout greater Houston and are the first place people go in time of need or in times of disaster. ACAM agencies provide basic needs, from food to clothing, and more. They are the first place families or individuals turn in times of disasters, such as hurricanes, floods or fire. Because of ACAM, the executive directors now share best practices; staff has become more professional without losing the humanity and passion that drives their work; facilities and infrastructure are improved so that those accessing services feel welcomed. Because of ACAM agencies, the homeless have found shelter; the hungry can feed themselves and their children; others have found meaningful work, and the story goes on.
I am fortunate to interact with ACAM on a daily basis and have witnessed their development from a pilot program to the non-profit organization they are today. I am the Grants Administrator for Rockwell Fund and we share office space with ACAM. I volunteer and perform clerical duties for ACAM on an ongoing basis and my younger daughter volunteered her services in the past. ACAM proactively provides a ripple effect by helping their members become stronger and then those members can serve more people in need and this then strengthens the entire community. ACAM serves as a catalyst and and advocate in the community. To date, ACAM has awarded nearly $4.5 million for projects in the areas of Capacity Building, Networking and Training, Collaborative Initiatives and Advocacy and Outreach.