In libraries and church basements across the state, community leaders gathered to discuss addressing minority health issues in Indiana. It was the late 1980s and there was no cohesive statewide effort to focus on minority health disparities.
Those many meetings over many years helped lay the foundation for the Indiana Minority Health Coalition. Carl Ellison was there for its founding in 1994; he’s now its president and CEO. In its 25-year history, IMHC has expanded across the state, creating a network of local affiliates and partners committed to creating a unified voice for minority health issues.
“When we started, we never could have envisioned that we would be where we are today,” Ellison admits. “There is no model in the United States for who we have become. It’s been breathtaking to watch IMHC grow.”
IMHC followed its strategic plan through 2019 into exciting and uncharted territory, but the future would require a new course. Ellison and IMHC leadership knew they needed an outside eye and experienced ear to help them plot the organization’s next steps.
Ellison had worked with IU Executive Education when he was a board member for Covering Kids and Families Indiana. He knew their consulting services could help organizations with executive and leadership development, organizational assessments, governance, and strategic planning.
That planning portion is what Ellison focused on. He had seen the process play out at CKF and knew it could work for his organization as well.
“The team at Executive Education is flexible, objective, process-driven, and helps you gain clarity around the issues you’re focused on addressing,” Ellison says. “They also have an understanding and sensitivity to disadvantaged populations, particularly people of color.”
That approach and experience was a perfect fit. IMHC worked with Executive Education’s director Sara Johnson and faculty member Karen Porter to ensure the strategic planning goals were measurable and attainable, but also a stretch for the organization. The team knows strategic planning can be challenging for nonprofits due to the rapidly-changing nature of today’s nonprofit environment. That’s why they come prepared with a new outlook on the process.
“It is critical to plan a long-term strategy that includes short-term adaptability options,” Johnson says. “Strategic plans are dynamic working documents, not a product to be shelved, dusted off, and revisited every three years.”
Ellison isn’t shelving his new plan. One of the most immediate changes they’re making because of the work with Executive Education is the development of a new corporate campaign for IMHC’s affiliates. Ellison says, because of the strategic planning process, he will personally implement that campaign in the coming year.
“So the plan itself is already having an impact to help us become stronger at the local level,” he says. “We also now have a plan for goals like being nationally recognized, diversifying funding, strengthening our capacity, and strengthening our own diversity to reflect the minority populations of Indiana.”
Ellison hopes to work with Executive Education in the next phase of IMHC planning to determine whether the organization should evolve from having affiliates to instead having local branches.
“They’re experts in gathering the collective voice of a statewide network so they can understand our context and situation, and help us understand it as well,” Ellison says.
He knows the change would be a huge shift for IMHC and wants to ensure they have the right team guiding them through the process as they work to make a decision.
“You need an independent vehicle like Executive Education to help you envision what you can achieve,” Ellison says. “It doesn’t really matter if you’re a nonprofit or a for-profit organization. When you’re trying to plan for the future, they are the gold standard of what you hope for in a facilitator.”