2014 Excellence Awards

2014 Excellence Award Winners:

Each year, the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network honors the passion and impact of local leaders in the nonprofit sector with the Excellence Awards. Winners come from every subsector and each corner of the state, but they all share a commitment to improving communities across the Commonwealth. The Excellence Awards are an opportunity to recognize this commitment. Click here to submit a nomination for a 2015 Nonprofit Excellence Award.

The 2014 Excellence Award winners were announced at the State House on June 9th before a crowd of 250 nonprofit, corporate and community leaders. Read below for full descriptions of all finalist organizations and individuals.

Excellence in Advocacy: Strategies for Children, Inc.
Excellence in Board Governance: Junior Achievement of Northern New England, Inc.
Excellence in Collaboration: Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness
Excellence in Communication: Mass Mentoring Partnership
Excellence in Innovation: Beacon Academy
Excellence in Leadership: Deb Samuels
Excellence by a Small Nonprofit: Falmouth Artists Guild
Young Nonprofit Professional Excellence Award: Pavel Payano

2014 Excellence Awards Finalists:

Advocacy: Changing the Game

Homes for Families
Homes for Families (HFF) advocates to end family homelessness in Massachusetts by building powerful relationships between homeless and formerly homeless families, shelter/service providers, concerned citizens, the business community, and government. Using compelling data, the personal experiences of homeless families and strong communication tools, HFF successfully mobilized their stakeholders to advocate with the Massachusetts Legislature resulting in an allocation of $57.5 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program. This 34% increase from the previous year will provide more than 1,400 additional units of affordable housing. The vouchers also allow more resources to circulate into local economies, creating healthier and more stable neighborhoods by providing housing stability and a steady rental stream for small property owners.

Neurofibromatosis Northeast
Neurofibromatosis Northeast’s (NFNE) mission is to find treatment and a cure for neurofibromatosis through advocacy and the promotion of scientific research, creating awareness about the disorder, and supporting families suffering from it. By heightening awareness of the disease and providing tool kits for concerned constituents to use to reach out to their legislators, NFNE has been instrumental in securing $255 million for Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs for neurofibromatosis as well as $250 million for the National Institutes of Health. Thanks to NFNE, Massachusetts received the highest percentage of these funds, with nearly $40 million for research.

Strategies for Children, Inc.
Strategies for Children, Inc. (SFC) advocates for young children in Massachusetts to be able to take advantage of the rich educational and economic opportunities that the state has to offer. They focus their efforts on the critical early years from birth to third grade. To ensure that MA children have access to high-quality early education; enter elementary schools ready to succeed; and become proficient readers by third grade. To increase resources for this effort, SFC launched a multi-pronged campaign. This included policymaker outreach, grassroots organizing, mobilizing 100 business leaders, research and media outreach. Their achievements are many, the most recent being an additional $26 million for early education in the 2014 state budget.

Transportation for Massachusetts
Transportation for Massachusetts (T4MA) advocates for an environmentally sustainable, reliable, and an affordable transportation system for residents and visitors across the Commonwealth. They work to secure adequate, reliable, and stable transportation funding and obtain the best return on those investments for travelers and taxpayers. In 2013, T4MA led a campaign, with its diverse coalition of thirty-six Bay State organizations in coordination with business and municipal allies, that combined research, advocacy, and strategic communications to build public and political will for this funding. This resulted in approximately $600 million annually in new funds for transportation over the next five years.

Board Governance: Setting the Course

House of Hope/House of Hope Housing
The strategic partnership between House of Hope Shelter (HOH) and House of Hope Housing (HOHH), designed by its Board of Directors, ensures that homeless families not only receive short-term emergency shelter, but now have the chance to live in permanent housing. This is a critical development at a time when there are thousands of Massachusetts families living in shelters and motels. The Board’s leadership ensures that HOH/HOHH is known for the quality and creativity of its programs, is fiscally sound, and is supported by the Greater Lowell community, and city and state agencies. Thanks to the Board’s leadership, more than $1,000,000 in public funds has been approved for the organization’s newest housing program for homeless families.

Junior Achievement of Northern New England, Inc.
In the past two years, the Board of Directors of Junior Achievement of Northern New England, Inc. (JANNE),  which teaches financial literacy, workforce readiness, and entrepreneurship to young people, has been successful in improving organizational effectiveness in predetermined areas: marketing, development, stewardship, board nominations, and special events. Under the Board’s leadership, the organization successfully navigated a major leadership transition and has almost doubled operating surplus, dramatically increased student impact, boosted the number of trained volunteers by 47%, and almost doubled the amount of staff.

Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy Board of Directors
The Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy Board of Directors leads the organization’s maintenance and development of the Greenway on behalf of the public and in partnership with the state. In response to programmatic, governance and organizational challenges, trustees have streamlined Board committees, updated governance documents, and focused on staffing priorities, recently appointing a new executive director. In addition, the Board has helped to focus on philanthropy and earned income and was instrumental in leveraging a large capital gift as well as multi-year gifts, and completing the Carousel campaign.

Worcester Community Action Council
Under the leadership of the Board of Directors, the Worcester Community Action Council (WCAC) serves more than 75,000 income-limited households through 18 economic self-sufficiency programs and emergency services. In response to the impact of the Great Recession, after researching and implementing best practices, the Board revised the agency by-laws to improve board governance; updated the WCAC fiscal and human resource manuals to strengthen systems, accountability, and performance; approved a comprehensive technology plan and funding to keep pace with data management/storage; and revised the salary, wage, and benefit structure to support the dedicated staff. The Board also helped to consolidate Head Start sites in the region from five to three; reducing budgets while maintaining core services.

Collaboration: Collective Impact

Berkshire Youth Development Project
Berkshire Youth Development Project (BYDP) promotes positive youth development strategies and activities throughout Berkshire County. Composed of three regional coalitions, BYDP works to coordinate positive youth development and youth substance abuse prevention in Berkshire County through collaboration. They seek to leverage resources for youth development initiatives through the County and to coordinate initiatives throughout the Berkshires. By working together, the BYDP has brought more than $1.5 million into their region; reached thousands of teens throughout the region; been instrumental in installing 24 hour medication drop boxes at six police stations in the area; and collected 5,176 pounds of highly-addictive pills since 2010 through semi-annual prescription drug round-ups.

Nonotuck Resource Associates & Horace Mann Educational Associates
Nonotuck Resource Associates and Horace Mann Educational Associates worked together to improve service access and delivery to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. This collaboration began with the development of the Shared Living Connector and grew to a wide range of other collaborative efforts that include information sharing between the Wellness Committees of both organizations, integration of IT services, and sharing in-service, training, and clinical resources. These collaborative efforts have saved money; streamlined job tasks; expanded service concepts; and demonstrated that uniquely different organizations can work together to propel a valued and thoughtful network for the people they each embrace.

Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness
The Secure Jobs Connect initiative, a workforce development project for homeless families developed by the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness was made possible through the collaboration of multiple partners across four counties: HAPHousing as a fellow funder, Corporation for Public Management as lead agency, CareerPoint, FutureWorks, Square One, ServiceNet, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and Berkshire Regional Housing Authority. As a result of the collaboration, over an 11 month period, 143 parents of homeless families obtained new jobs and the typical job placement paid wages exceeded the minimum wage. The Network also facilitated creation of the Secure Jobs Connect Advisory Committee to oversee the initiative’s progress, which includes state legislators, mayors, community college presidents, workforce development and business partners and child care and housing leaders, all of whom collaborated to eliminate barriers to employment on an individual and systematic basis.

Worcester Natural History Society dba EcoTarium
Worcester Natural History Society dba EcoTarium is responsible for leading the Environmental Exhibit Collaborative (EEC), an ongoing 10-year partnership of smaller New England museums. EEC provides partner museums with the capacity to act as if they are a larger, comprehensively resourced entity. Utilizing strong centralized project management (EcoTarium) to provide coordination and support, along with shared resources, EEC empowered isolated staff at partner museums to function as a single “virtual” exhibit department, collaboratively producing exhibitions no individual museum could produce alone. EEC has been highly successful at providing space and budget appropriate science exhibitions, and creating practical professional development programs for exhibition staff. In addition, the in-person reciprocal peer mentoring employed by EEC as part of their methodology has led to the adoption of a number of positive new practices.

Communications: Telling Your Story

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston (CCAB) succeeded in raising the profile of its Teen Center at St. Peter, which serves teens ages 12 to 19 from the Bowdoin/Geneva neighborhood, by leveraging the Teen Center’s 10th anniversary to promote the program’s impact on individual lives and the neighborhood as whole. The campaign resulted in large event attendance, positive donor response, and media exposure. By having the Teen Center story told in The Boston Globe, and then reinforced through an op-ed authored by CCAB’s Executive Director, they influenced an audience beyond Dorchester that may be unfamiliar with the program. Ultimately, the effort attracted new donor interest in the Teen Center, including a quarter million dollar pledge from a private donor, and has strengthened its position as a community resource in the neighborhood.

Mass Mentoring Partnership
Mass Mentoring Partnership’s (MMP) Mentor Effect, which launched in fall of 2013, serves as a platform that measures the impact of mentoring with regard to students, families, and schools, as well as how mentoring strengthens academic achievement, workforce development, and ultimately communities as a whole. The campaign to launch the Mentor Effect included a series of graphics that were implemented across numerous channels including newsletters, a webpage, an Instagram account, an online contest to gather Mentor Effect stories, and event integration. The total number of actions taken (including Mentor Effect website page visits, new social media followers, and comments/retweets related to the campaign) increased by 128% from the previous year’s campaign and the advertising component increased impressions by 18%. Additionally, more than 50 Mentor Effect stories were submitted through the website, and during the campaign period, 86% were new visitors to MMP’s website

Seven Hills Foundation
The Seven Hills Foundation, which cares for people with disabilities and significant life challenges, worked to strengthen its capacity and expand resources to the populations it serves by streamlining messages and branding through the development of a newly designed website. Through an extensive planning process, tools and tactics were developed including creative videos, photos, testimonials, social media feeds and streamlined messaging and content to strengthen the ability to highlight the expertise of the organization and reach the populations they serve. The new site also includes a sortable calendar section to post upcoming events and schedules; a “What’s Happening” section for news, events, publications and ways for visitors to get involved with Seven Hills; a Career Opportunities function to list current job opportunities; and a robust search tool.

The Theater Offensive
The Theater Offensive’s (TTO) focused communications strategies and enhanced social media strategies has helped the organization reach its target Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender audiences in Roxbury, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, and the South End. TTO enhanced its social media strategies by utilizing info-graphics and gamification, which resulted in an increase in TTO’s target audience members (youth ages 14-19 and people of color) by 43% over two years. In addition, all major social media platforms have reported increased followings: Facebook by 49%, Youtube by 36%, Twitter by 25%; and website traffic by 12%. As a result of the creative engagement techniques, TTO has seen an increase in event attendance and participation with development activities.

Innovation: Finding New Ways

Beacon Academy
As the only school of its kind in the country, Beacon Academy serves low-income students by providing a transformational year between 8th and 9th grades to promising, motivated and hard-working students from Boston and surrounding urban areas. Academic enrichment programs operate after school, on weekends, and in the summer and Beacon’s intense curriculum is designed to be transformative beyond academics, so students are prepared to thrive socially and emotionally in school environments that are dramatically different from their former ones. Collectively, 99% of Beacon’s students have graduated from high school; 90% are enrolled in college; more than 60% of graduates earn athletic, academic and leadership awards in high school; and Beacon’s graduates have earned more than $29 million in scholarship funding.

Bottom Line
Bottom Line employs a unique, two-fold college retention model to help low-income and first-generation college students get into college, graduate, and go far in life. The program provides students with a highly trained counselor equipped with concrete curricula and every college student in the program receives one-on-one in-person support in the four areas likely to cause them to drop out. Once accepted to college, Bottom Line’s Success Program provides one-on-one, in-person mentoring to students for up to six years. The highly trained, full-time college counselors help students adapt to campus life, handle life challenges that might otherwise force them to drop out, establish successful study habits, navigate financial aid, and pursue career development opportunities. Since its founding, Bottom Line’s has achieved measurable results: 98% of high school seniors have been accepted to college and 76% of college students have graduated in 6 years or less.

Chatham Marconi Maritime Center
Chatham Marconi Maritime Center (CMMC) engages, educates and inspires visitors of all ages and interests with the rich history of wireless communication on Cape Cod and the limitless future potential of science and technology. In collaboration with their partner schools and the MIT Club of Cape Cod, CMMC strengthened classroom STEM education in local schools. The curriculum project teamed educators with curriculum-writing experience and volunteers with engineering experience to construct lesson plans with real-world relevance for students. Authentic examples were included to illustrate the mathematical tools, scientific principles and technologies that support engineering efforts. Last year, 33 educators employed the lessons for more than 1,000 students.

Roca, Inc.
Roca, Inc. uses an evidence-based, cognitive behavioral Intervention Model designed to help very high-risk young men ages 17-24 who have justice system involvement, little to no education, and no work history, and a propensity for violence, crime, and incarceration. Last year, of the young men who completed the intensive first two years of Roca’s Intervention Model, 89% had no new arrests, 95% had no new technical violations of probation, and 69% retained employment. In January 2014, Roca and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts launched the 5-year, $27 million Juvenile Justice Pay-for-Success Project—the most well-funded and rigorous government-sponsored program of its kind in the world. The project will refer over 1,300 state-supervised, high-risk young men to Roca in order to reduce overall incarcerations and attach these young men to the labor market.

Leadership: Guiding the Ship

Kevin Howard
As President and CEO of the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, Kevin Howard has raised the regional and state-wide profile of the organization and has led strategic planning efforts which have resulted in higher revenues, more grants awarded, and a new scholarship program. He has effectively shepherded a major new initiative for the Foundation each year and has led the organization to a 19.2% increase in revenues in the last fiscal year. Kevin has been a compelling advocate and ambassador for why the arts matter to the character of communities and their economic sustainability. Since his arrival to the Foundation; he has been named by the Governor to two State Boards, increasing the region’s connections and visibility.

Deb Samuels
As President of Crossroads for Kids, Deb Samuels works closely with the board of trustees and organization’s leadership team to set organizational strategy, develop strategic partnerships, and ensure Crossroads is making maximum positive impact in over 100 communities across Eastern Massachusetts. Deb’s vision, passion and management style have resulted in the development and implementation of a strategic development plan to support organizational growth, the securement of a $600,000 capacity building grant, development of a master facility site plan to identify capital needs for program expansion, and a comprehensive communications overhaul. Under Deb’s leadership, the organization has seen a 225% increase in year-round programming enrollment, 170% growth in year-round staff, 140% increase in fundraising revenue, and a 57% increase in the organizational budget.

Jay Breines
Under the leadership of Jay Breines, CEO of the Holyoke Health Center, the organization has seen tremendous growth and had a measurable impact on community residents’ access to comprehensive, quality health care. As part of Jay’s efforts to create “a comprehensive healthcare home” for their patients, his leadership has resulted in the opening of Chicopee Health Center in 2008; one of the largest dental practices in Massachusetts with specialty services, preceptorships and residency programs for adult and pediatric specialties; a high volume patient-focused pharmacy service with a strong medication therapy management program; a new charter school and a $23 million renovation of downtown Holyoke commercial buildings via New Market Tax Credits.

Frederica Matilda Williams
Frederica Matilda Williams, President and CEO of Whittier Street Health Center, has transformed a basic community health center into a neighborhood centerpiece and national model that is strategically addressing health disparities in its neighborhoods. Under her leadership, the health center opened a state of the art facility to expand its comprehensive care; partnered with the Dana-Farber Cancer Center to open the first-of-its-kind Cancer Equity Center to bring cancer screenings and treatment into the community and address cancer disparities; and through the support of AstraZeneca Healthcare Foundation, established a Connections to Cardiovascular Care program in 2012 to assist participants in developing self-management goals related to improving their cardiovascular health.

Small Nonprofit: Doing More with Less

Community Dispute Settlement Center
The Community Dispute Settlement Center (CDSC) utilizes their volunteers in a strategic way that allows them to provide affordable conflict resolution services as an alternative to litigation in a variety of different instances. CDSC also addresses the challenge of bringing peacemaking and conflict education to a wide range of groups and populations from gang-involved youth, to domestic workers and their employers, to elders in public housing. In 2013, their pro-bono mediators donated 1,533 hours of mediation services, facilitated a total of 287 mediations, 68% of which were resolved by mutual agreement. Also in 2013, CDSC experienced a 15% growth in training services and trained 668 people through 36 different programs in mediation and conflict management.

Falmouth Artists Guild
The Falmouth Artists Guild began as a few local artists meeting in a basement and transformed into a thriving community art center. They use a variety of resources including art sales, exhibition fees, classes, workshops, dues, annual fund drives, imaginative events, partnerships with non-profits and the public schools, public and private grants, sponsorships, and skilled volunteers to be able to meet Falmouth artists’ need for community and provide a space where all visitors can enjoy art. In the past several years, the organization has met (and exceeded) its goals to grow the audience for the visual arts on the upper Cape; provide affordable art education in a variety of media at beginning, intermediate and advanced levels; and become increasingly self sustaining selling art and art services.

In Control Crash Prevention
In Control Crash Prevention, which educates drivers of all experience levels through hands-on training and community engagement, has proven they can provide a lifesaving program at a low cost that is ultimately offset by insurance discounts provided to graduates. The program’s more than 25,000 students have participated in the hands-on training and hundreds of thousands of drivers have heard them speak at local events or in the media. In addition, In Control advocated for legislative initiatives that resulted in Massachusetts having the state’s first certified program in the nation.

Samaritans on Cape Cod and the Islands
Through innovative funding and program development, Samaritans on Cape Cod and the Islands has been able to reach and support hundreds of thousands of individuals who are lonely, alienated, depressed, and suicidal. During 2014, Samaritans anticipates that volunteers will answer more than 25,000 crisis line calls; distribute 100 care packages to survivors of suicide loss; and will support at least 35 seniors through the outreach program. The organization has shown a great ability to create and implement new and creative programming in response to the needs of its community and its members as well as effective procurement of grants.

Young Nonprofit Professional: Forging the Future

Justin Yiu
As the Leadership Development Chair of Boston Young Healthcare Professionals (BYHP), Justin Yiu is responsible for overseeing the recruiting process for BYHP’s leadership team as well as envisioning and executing strategies to help develop the leadership skills of BYHP members. During his tenure at the organization, Justin has fully embodied innovation, passion, determination, and collaboration and due to his leadership, BYHP has significantly grown in size and capacity in the last year, all while practicing and promoting its core values of diversity, inclusion, civic responsibility, and strong relationships.

Adrienne Klein
In her role as Community Outreach Director for Cambridge Community Services (CCS), Adrienne Klein recruits, trains, and supports nearly 100 volunteer tutors and mentors. After quickly proving herself, she was given additional responsibilities. Adrienne now leads all development work for the agency and has achieved the most significant growth in fundraising in the agency’s recent history: an increase of more than 300% during this fiscal year; created a new website and gave the organization a social media presence; and oversees the College Success Program. Adrienne’s dedication to CCS and the students has helped to raise the organization’s profile and serves as an excellent model for both the staff and students.

Pavel Payano
Pavel Payano is the Founding President and Co-Founder of the Greater Lawrence Young Professionals Network (GLYPN), an organization that he created as an effort to attract, retain, and engage young professionals to stay and work in the Greater Lawrence area. Under Pavel’s leadership, the organization developed sustainable funding strategies; developed and funded a media campaign which gave them a stronger online presence; and showed local leaders that they are an essential partner for economic development efforts. In addition, Pavel led the organization to focus on creating a young professional pipeline that starts in high school as well as provided teens with mentors, resume workshops, and leadership opportunities.

Donovan Arthen
In his role as the Executive Director of PeaceJam New England, Donovan Arthen, turned around an organization on the verge of collapse. Arthen runs multiple programs, develops and manages the budget, coordinates with the board, fundraises, oversees marketing and recruitment, and supervises a staff of more than 200 staff, interns, and volunteers. Under his leadership, the organization has grown and thrived and is now effectively tackling the pressing issues of youth violence and disempowerment evidenced in gang activity and cases of bullying. Through innovation and coalition-building, Donovan has succeeded in transforming the organization into a thriving success story.

Past Award Winners

 “Winning the MNN Advocacy Award was a tremendous morale boost for our staff and board. It validated years of hard work and helped us convey to funders the importance of advocacy and the impact it can have when done well.” -Joseph Kriesberg, President of MACDC

“In addition to being a great honor, being the recipient of the 2013 Nonprofit Excellence in Collaboration Award greatly strengthened Sharing the Harvest’s visibility both within our community and amongst nonprofits statewide, while also increasing our outside support to directly strengthen our mission.” – Daniel H. King, Community Farm Director, Sharing the Harvest

“We were thrilled to receive the award for reaching out to all of our stakeholders in a variety of formats including audio, digital, large print and Braille.   The Award, which we received while celebrating 90 years of service to the blind and visually impaired, recognized the need to include everyone clients, donors, funding sources etc. in accessible formats. A quote from Helen Keller seems to say it all ‘the best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.  They must be felt with the heart.’” – Elizabeth M. Cannon, Executive Director, Lowell Association for the Blind (Winner, Excellence in Communications Award)

“As a winner of the 2013 Massachusetts Nonprofit Network Young Nonprofit Professional Award, I have received a tremendous amount of support from folks wanting to help foster youth beat the odds. The MNN Excellence Awards has led to an uptick in traction and potential donors. We have become an extension of MNN’s brand. As a result, my organization’s reputation has been boasted tenfold. It is a great honor to represent MNN!” – Marquis Cabrera, Founder and Chairman of Foster Skills, Inc.