Case Study: Dress for Success NWA

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July 1, 2013 by Beth

One of the neatest things that I encounter is the opportunity to work with incredibly passionate individuals. When they come to me with a fire in their bellies, my work becomes simple – it’s simply a matter of translating that zeal into something meaningful that helps accomplish their mission.

Such was the case with Jane Behrends and Krischelle Tennessen, who took on the daunting task of launching a new nonprofit in northwest Arkansas. Because of the presence of numerous corporate giants from the Fortune 100 and the giving nature of this community, there is a particularly high ratio of nonprofit and philanthropic organizations per capita as compared to the rest of the nation. In short, it’s a crowded marketplace.

Jane and Krischelle are not prone to back down in the face of a challenge, however – and they are both employed at Walmart corporate, giving them a bird’s eye view of the northwest Arkansas philanthropic landscape. Each came to the table with past engagement and commitment to the mission of Dress for Success, and they were surprised to find that the worldwide organization based in New York lacked a local affiliate in the backyard of the world’s largest retailer. In fact, there was not one single active Dress for Success affiliate in the entire state of Arkansas!

However, Dress for Success was perfectly poised as an addition to the northwest Arkansas nonprofit landscape. The organization’s mission complements the work of many respected, established agencies in the region:

to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

Dress for Success serves clients only by referral, so it was natural to lend a hand to the potential startup by making connections throughout the community, allowing multiple organizations to band together and establish partnerships for the greater good. Women who are entering the workforce for the first time and those who have left for a substantial period due to personal challenges and even abuse find a perfect service model in Dress for Success (Dress for Success – What We Do).

These two dynamos moved fast: only a few weeks passed between their first inquiry about starting a local affiliate to being approved to engage in the application process and rallying a robust team of volunteers around their cause. They must have subscribed to the thoughts of General George S. Patton, Jr.:

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.

I was fortunate to collaborate with Jane and Krischelle in the production of the business plan to stand up a Dress for Success affiliate in northwest Arkansas. The process included a torrential flood of emails, phone calls, meetings and the compilation of components ranging from gap analyses to financial estimates, from mission statements to a careful review of the sizable requirements for the startup process.

The business of establishing a legitimate nonprofit organization requires careful consideration, extensive resources and incredibly committed individuals who are as focused on the eventual outcome as they are willing to consider the potential pitfalls along the way. Jane and Krischelle were immensely receptive to my insights on the ideal location for the organization’s storefront, tolerant of my consistent badgering related to navigating the landscape of nonprofit management and grantwriting and ultimately so clear on the mission, vision and values for their organization that they were destined to succeed from the start.

Although substantial work to create and collect the various components was completed over the prior eight week period, the entire (ultimately successful) affiliate application was compiled, written and submitted in just one week.

Thank you, Beth… just amazing work! Can’t appreciate you enough. ~ KT

All of the credit for the existence of this fantastic new organization in northwest Arkansas is due to the resolve and tireless hard work of its two co-founders. The northwest Arkansas affiliate was approved on Valentine’s Day 2013, and less than four months later the CEO of Dress for Success Worldwide, Joi Gordon, visited the region to celebrate the new chapter’s launch and a gift of $500,000 from Walmart to Dress for Success Worldwide (including $25,000 to the new NWA affiliate).

As far as Magpie Marketing: it’s incredibly exciting to watch quietly from the sidelines as a business or organization we’ve touched in some small way goes on to achieve all the glory and success it deeply deserves.

Connect and get involved with the new Dress for Success NWA affiliate.

Learn more about the mission and vital work of Dress for Success Worldwide.

Read more about Walmart’s $500,000 gift to Dress for Success Worldwide.

Learn more about Jane and Krischelle’s fantastic head shot (above) by Linda Richards Photography – as well as how to get the perfect head shot of your own – over on my blog.


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