Q&A with Kathy Sibert
Executive Director, Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network
Tell us a little about your leadership style and how this contributed to your organization’s success
It is important for a leader to have a strong vision of where they want their organization to go. An example of this at A-SPAN is the organization realizing a long-time dream of a year-round Homeless Services Center, which will dramatically impact our vision of ending homelessness in Arlington. The Homeless Services Center began as an idea, but what led to its successful development and implementation was a detailed action plan, and my collaboration throughout Arlington Country towards that goal.
I place a premium on teamwork and then work to promote that by encouraging my staff and constituents to contribute. We work together so that the workload is balanced and everyone joins together and contributes to push a project past the finish line. An example of teamwork at A-SPAN is our client move-in days. While development team uses social media to gather furniture donations and other items the client will need to truly make their new apartment a home. Then, on the day of the move, any staff member who is free is encouraged to sign up and help with move-in. It is a true team effort, and it keeps my staff stay closely connected with the impact of our programs, whether you’re working in administration or on the front line.
Lastly, I am focused on results. To reach those, we as a team identify the next steps and then I assign someone’s name to each step or task. That way when we end the discussion, everyone knows exactly what they are responsible for, and how it contributes to the successful accomplishment of the task or project.
What advice would you offer other nonprofit leaders?
It is really important for nonprofit leaders to enjoy working with others- specifically your staff, your board, and your funders. A great deal of your work as a nonprofit leader involves managing your staff to achieve your organization’s mission. It is important to stay focused on how to motivate and inspire your staff. It takes a united team of people working together towards a common goal, a good work environment, and staff who feel valued and respected for an organization to realize a long-term goal like the Homeless Service Center.
In addition, you need to develop a good working relationship with your board. The board is made of a dedicated group of people who believe in the organization’s mission and are willing to donate their time, talent, and treasure to its management. They are also key to your success and you want to build a collaborative and honest relationship with them. It is also important that you build a strong relationship with your Board Chair as in effect it is a marriage and one that needs to be built with honesty, humor, and trust.
Finally, you have to enjoy working with your funders and developing that relationship. If you cultivate the relationship, show results, and meet their requirements, many funders will become multi-year funders which will free up your time to focus on items other than fundraising!
What does this award mean for you and your organization?
The award would mean a great deal to me and my organization. During my career at A-SPAN, I have focused on staff needs by building a strong team, improving our staff benefits, as well as better evaluating each person’s performance and contribution to the organization. I also have concentrated on ensuring A-SPAN’s long-term financial stability by instituting strong financial controls and procedures and tighter management of A-SPAN’s income and expenses. I have strategically diversified our income stream so that now at the beginning of the fiscal year I have over 60% of my expenses covered by long-term contracts. Finally I have expanded our services to better meet the needs of our clients by increasing the number of housing vouchers we control so that we can move more people from homelessness to homes and advocating for a year-round shelter for our homeless veteran and individuals. This award will signal to the staff, the board, our supporters and funders that we have built a lasting foundation and are poised to forge ahead to end homelessness in Arlington. It will solidify the strong reputation that we have built for A-SPAN and help us achieve greater results.