Alliance Increases Membership to 500, Plans Bigger Member Lending Program

The Alliance for Children and Families has increased its membership by 30 percent and may augment its financial lending to members, two moves made possible by a restructuring of the organization and other nonprofits affiliated with it.

“Our corporate structure was fine years back, but not with the pace of change now,” said Alliance CEO Susan Dreyfus, in a phone interview with The Chronicle. “That’s what sits behind how we’re moving forward.”

The United Neighborhood Centers of America (UNCA) has officially merged into the Alliance, creating a single entity with nearly 500 members. The merger was announced in October at the Alliance’s national conference in Minneapolis.

2014 will serve as a “test drive” phase for UNCA’s 150 member organizations, most of which are community centers or settlement houses. They join the Alliance at the current UNCA membership rate, which ranges from $500 to $1,500 based on annual budget, but the membership dues will tick up in 2015, and could rise to the Alliance’s standard range of $1,500 up to $20,000.

Boards of several other nonprofits close to the Alliance voted unanimously to shut themselves down, ceding control over the groups to a new and smaller board at the Alliance. That 16-member board, led by Dennis Richardson, CEO of the Hillside Family of Agencies, replaces a governing structure that involved more than 70 board members and 80 board meetings each year.

The Alliance board will now control three organizations:

  • The Alliance, which is made up of dues-paying members that are all private human services providers.
  • FEI Behavior Health, which contracts with businesses and governments to provide crisis management.
  • Ways to Work, which is a Community Development Financial Institution (CFDI) that makes low-interest loans to working families.

The Alliance board also approved the termination of Families International, which was created by the Alliance as a holding company for itself and these other nonprofits.

Moving Ways to Work under the control of the Alliance board will enable the organization to use its CDFI status for a wider array of purposes, Dreyfus said.

“We’re going to diversify the lending portfolio and do more with CDFI,” she said, including “social enterprise development…in our sector.”

Dues collected from the former UNCA members will finance the Center for Engagement and Neighborhood Building, which has been established as a program of the Alliance. The center will serve as the hub for all Alliance civic engagement work, including its Neighborhood Revitalization projects and publication of its Families in Society Journal.

“We have grant requests out now,” on other potential projects for the center, Dreyfus said.

Former UNCA President Ian Bautista will serve as the initial leader of the center and oversee the transition of UNCA into the Alliance.

John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change

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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.