When Jericho Road Pasadena first opened its doors in 2010, effects of the Great Recession were still being felt and many local nonprofits were in upheaval, closing or restructuring.
Now, as the organization celebrates its 10th anniversary, Executive Director Melanie Goodyear can draw some comparisons between that economic crisis and the current pandemic-induced recession, but noted that nonprofits are by and large much healthier and better informed. And that, in part, is because of Jericho Road.
“It’s really reassuring to hear about how many nonprofit organizations are not just surviving but are really rising to the occasion, pivoting operations and doing great work,” said Goodyear, sitting down to discuss the way in which her nonprofit has grown into a community capacity-building network by helping organizations obtain skilled pro bono work that otherwise wouldn’t be affordable to them.
“What we saw during the [earlier] recession was that organizations that had invested the time to the mission and had lean but solid business models did well and were able to weather the storm. It’s been really gratifying to see how many organizations we’ve helped that are doing really well right now because they have this very solid infrastructure,” she said.
While some nonprofit operations have had to take a break from offering services or operations due to social distancing mandates aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, Goodyear emphasized that it’s also a good time to tighten finances and do some housecleaning.
“It’s never too late to invest in your infrastructure, plan to bring what you do to a larger audience, make sure you’re checking in with your constituent base and communicating with the people who are your larger donors and make sure they know you’re doing good work. So I think now is the time to really dig in and make sure your community is really solid and tight,” she added.
Since its inception in May 2010, JRP has itself closely followed that advice, and gradually expanded its reach to build a community that has given 19,997 skilled volunteer hours to 210 nonprofits; that work is estimated to be worth $1.691 million, at no cost to the clients. Along with the pro bono work, JRP does strategic planning management and board member development to give financial support and strategic thinking, and has matched 38 board members with local nonprofits.
Although some endeavors have been put on pause due to the coronavirus, other nonprofits have worked to finish pipeline projects more quickly with Jericho Road volunteers due to having some extra down time.
“One of the good things that can come of a crisis is that people take stock and ask, ‘Is it mission centered for us? Is it what we’re good at and is it what is needed?’” Goodyear said. “Those questions are really good at grounding nonprofits. So it’s been helpful in that we’ve really stepped back and asked, OK, is capacity building what is really needed right now? And thankfully, that answer has been yes.”
One of the nonprofits JRP has helped along the way is the Pasadena Senior Center, a facility that offers a wide variety of programs, enrichment courses and services designed for those age 50 and older. In recent years, JRP has helped the Senior Center develop a new app, find writers for its monthly magazine, call its members quarterly during the COVID crisis, develop a brochure for rentals of its Scott Pavilion on Raymond Avenue, and develop an emergency plan at the center for an “active shooter” scenario.
“We’ve been working with Jericho Road from [its] very beginning, it’s hard to imagine they’ve been here for 10 years now. Initially it was a difficult concept for some people to understand, I think, one nonprofit helping other nonprofits with very technical-oriented needs,” said Senior Center Executive Director Akila Gibbs. “But they’ve helped us immensely. They’ve helped us find experts we would never be able to afford or even be able to find — they have an amazing database of professional volunteers.”
Gibbs said that developing the app for the center has proved fruitful, especially during COVID, so that members can now check for online courses and more easily connect to what is happening.
“You contact them with a specific need and they take down all the information, what you hope the outcome to be, and they match that with their bank of volunteers. I think I can speak for a lot nonprofits — I don’t know what we’d do without the volunteers they’ve found for us over the years, project-driven volunteers that like having a beginning, middle and end,” she said. “We could never find those people.”
Goodyear has been referred to as the “matchmaker” of Pasadena, with her knack for connecting the right volunteer to the right nonprofit and the right job. Making sure a nonprofit’s volunteers are satisfied and happy with their service is just as important as completing a project, and something Goodyear has understood since the beginning, noted JRP board chair Janet McIntyre.
McIntyre became acquainted with the nonprofit by volunteering her services as a retreat coordinator before joining the board.
“Initially I was just looking for a way to do some volunteerism locally, and I like that it’s very community oriented — Melanie is truly that conduit in the community at large and connecting those people to nonprofits,” said McIntyre, who works at a regional nonprofit located downtown that also focuses on capacity building. “It’s very behind-the-scenes work, and I like knowing that I’m doing something closer to home when I’m not [in my day job].”
As board chair this year, McIntyre helped coordinate Jericho Road’s biggest fundraiser of the year, the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, which was ultimately canceled in the spring and put online.
But all was not forgotten, said Goodyear, noting that the breakfast did generate a few hundred views and that those who watched it expressed thankfulness for the moment of calm and unity. JRP hopes to be able to transfer much of the planning and keynote speaker over to the event next year, she added. In the meantime, she plans to keep encouraging nonprofits to strengthen their boards, get their finances in order and encourage volunteers and clients, all things JRP is happy to help with.
“We are here to help strengthen the Pasadena nonprofits, and if we can’t help, we will point them in the direction of someone who can,” she added, noting that JRP will host training for new board members in September. “We would like to put out a call for board members of all walks of life, with diverse skills. Remember, you don’t need to be a [wealthy] volunteer who can offer strategic planning and human resources to help boards restructure.”
To learn more about Jericho Road, volunteer or donate, visit JRPasadena.org.