Case Study in Capacity Building: HTP Foundation
Many organizations, particularly small local not-for-profit organizations (NPOs), operate without a cohesive plan or strategic direction to guide their organization. Some NPO leaders may have stumbled upon their current leadership roles while others have chosen it as a career. Whatever the case may be, sustainability of a NPO frequently faces ongoing challenges of human and financial resources, program/activity relevancy, accountability and capacity to manage and report on funds. Without direction or sufficient human capital, even an organization with financial ability may not be able to move forward. This is where leadership is crucial and openness to change is vital to planning for and leading a NPO into the future. Let us see how this applies to one NPO working closely with LIN Center for Community Development (LIN).
The HTP Foundation, or previously known as Huynh Tan Phat Scholarship (HTP) Foundation, was founded in 2007 and inspired by the life of the Vietnamese architect and public servant. HTP aims to: "Provide equal development opportunities for poor students eager to learn and contribute to the architect community in Vietnam." HTP has funded associate/bachelor level students with high academic achievements, coming from disadvantaged backgrounds and majoring in Architecture or Planning at universities in Ho Chi Minh City.
HTP's leader, Ms. Huynh Xuan Thao managed on her own for the first five years, and handled organizational challenges as they arose rather than document through a formal plan. Even with one volunteer to support her and HTP's activities, HTP gave out nearly 120 scholarships by 2013. However, with a desire to strategically expand activities and enhance services, HTP needed additional support from LIN and sought steady volunteer support to move HTP forward.
The Support and Results
At the five year mark, Ms. Thao became aware that HTP needed to have other people supporting her to move HTP towards sustainability while offering more than just scholarships. At a minimum, Ms. Thao knew she needed to develop a strategic plan for HTP while also seeking volunteers who are committed to the same vision and mission. She luckily found that in Ms. Nguyen Thuy Huong, a skilled volunteer with a Master's degree from the U.S., who is fully committed to supporting the development of and future goals of HTP. Ms. Huong was connected to HTP through another previously matched LIN skilled volunteer.
As part of a multitude of organizational development support under the Irish Aid funded project "VNPO Capacity Building System", Ms. Thao, Ms. Huong and an international volunteer indirectly connected by LIN, attended workshops on strategic planning (among other management topics) and immediately applied the tools and knowledge to immediately begin planning. LIN gave additional support through meetings with experts on fundraising and strategic planning where HTP garnered additional strategies for new HTP program activities and how to develop HTP. Ultimately, HTP was able to devise a framework for the strategic plan, get the board to approve and finalize the full plan with another volunteer's support.
In a mere six months, HTP has a new name, new logo and branding awareness, new communications platforms as well as renewed sense of mission. Beyond additional program offerings, HTP has strengthened internally as the organization developed and implemented its strategic plan. HTP grew from just two people to now more than 15 volunteers with Ms. Huong leading the charge on volunteer recruitment and management. HTP now has new functions to support fundraising, human resources and administration, financial management and program management.
HTP volunteer staff learned how to prepare effective proposals and successfully won three grant rounds from LIN in 2013. With positive participation throughout the Irish Aid funded project, HTP was also one of two NPOs that were chosen to receive a modest Encouragement Grant from LIN. In total, HTP was granted 120 million VND. With such results, HTP no doubt is on its way to receive other funding support beyond LIN.
For local NPOs that do not regularly practice planning, going through a strategic planning process can be a real shock. Once HTP's Board moved beyond the challenges of change management, they recognized the immediate impact including increased productivity, better planning of activities and enhanced support to beneficiaries. These results became possible when HTP's leader was open to change and recognizing that capacity building is vital to the sustainability of HTP.