The Sharing Prince George’s County initiative gives us the opportunity to conduct Site Visits with several nonprofits in the County. Those who join us include our board members, donor advisors, business leaders, and other nonprofit professionals. We asked one of our participants, Manuel R. Geraldo, an Advisory Board Member of The Community Foundation in Prince George’s County, to describe how important site visits are to him.
Why did you choose to engage in these site visits?
Site visits are the best way to see the organization in action and the manner in which it utilizes its resources. I have been on the National Harbor Community Outreach Grants Fund committee since it was taken over by The Community Foundation. In prior years, I made my decisions based upon the proposal and the collective wisdom of the other reviewers. The site visit gives me an additional perspective on the grantee that I can share with the committee.
What aspect(s) of the visit was most valuable to you?
For the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) visit, it was the enthusiasm and knowledge of the staff, the transparency exhibited by the staff, particularly how they conveyed to their volunteers about the responsibilities and rigors associated with being a CASA volunteer.
How will visits like this help you carry out your philanthropic goals?
It will help me see the impact that funding will have on the organization and its mission. Listening to the volunteers and their experiences which I don’t get in a grant proposal. There’s only so much you can glean from an organization on paper. The site visit provided me with a feel and understanding of CASA that usually does not come across completely in a written grant proposal.
What advice can you offer to aspiring philanthropists or nonprofit professionals?
I highly recommend site visits. I also recommend that philanthropists and nonprofit professionals insist that grantees measure their effectiveness, performance and use of the grants. It is important for the grantee to be able to demonstrate how the grant helped the organization in concrete ways.
What do you see as a critical action step that needs to happen to help this nonprofit carry out its goals?
CASA has a difficult mission especially with transitioning the youth into adulthood and independence. To the extent that CASA is successful in this regard, it is providing a valuable service to the community. Taking youth who have been victimized and providing them with advocates and services is important. Otherwise the youth would have no voice and the future for them would seem hopeless. CASA speaks for them and provides them with protection and hope. Helping the youth to become successful as adults by giving them the appropriate tools is equally important. This requires a multi-agency and multi-discipline approach. CASA understands this and has assumed the role of quarterback by having the social service agencies and their programs work collaboratively to ensure the older youth are successful in transitioning to adulthood. CASA needs more resources to help with the coordination of limited assistance for young adults and to measure its effectiveness with successful transition.