Overcoming Business Challenges the Nonprofit Way
Overcoming Business Challenges the Nonprofit Way:
An Interview with Lori Ropa of The Arc.
For-profit or nonprofit, Office Evolution serves both. While the end goal of each entity may be different, the business- related challenges can be very much the same.
For Lori Ropa, a normal day is filled with meetings, community outreach, and advocacy for people with intellectual & developmental disabilities. Needless-to-say, we appreciate Lori slowing down long enough to answer some questions and provide a few business tips for the Office Evolution community.
Our conversation focused on people and how the right people can make all the difference. Read our interview with Lori and watch the video to learn some of her best business tips.
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Tell us a little about your organization and what you do.
The Arc is an organization that serves people with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome, and countless other intellectual and developmental disabilities.
We are really focused on the individuals themselves and what they can achieve. We always look at the ability, and not the disability. And, what can that person have in their life to make it whole, meaningful, and make them successful.
We provide three different types of services.
#1 – We provide Individual Advocacy meaning you have a challenge and you need us to help you through that [challenge].
#2 – We have training and education. We provide that for families and individuals with disabilities, who we refer to as self-advocates.
#3 – We are trying to change the world and make our community a better, more welcoming place for all people, particularly for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
What are Your Best Business Tips?
Value the people you have working with you.
No organization is able to really succeed without great people. To have great people, you have to keep them engaged and feeling good about the work they are doing. Making your folks feel that they are part of something big and important; and, that their coming to work today, and every single day, matters. They make a big difference in what the organization is able to achieve.
Communication is really critical and it’s one of the reasons we engaged Office Evolution. We were at a point where we could only afford to engage a live receptionist for three hours a day in our office. When people call us, they are in crisis. They call us because they need support. The lives of the people we serve are already complicated and challenging; we don’t need to create more challenges. It is our job to make sure that they know we are there for them.
About The Arc:
The Arc was formed more than 50 years ago when people with intellectual disabilities were typically institutionalized. Parents came together and said, “We want more for our kids.” That seed developed this organization that today is serving close to 1,000 people with individual advocacy every year.
We work on issues that range from housing, employment, day-to-day living, individuals in schools and the education they are receiving, and the appropriateness of the supports they are getting to make sure they can be successful in the community.
We want the community to know we are here for them. We’re here to serve. Everyone knows someone with a disability. The incidence rate [for autism alone] is about 1 in 68, which is incredibly high. We know that advocacy has a life-changing impact on the lives of people with disabilities.
We also want the community to know that we want them to be a part of what goes on at The Arc. We have events in the summer; we have a large picnic. And we have a holiday open house. We want the broader community to come and be with us and get to know the folks that are a part of The Arc because they are a part of the community. We want everybody to be together and learn about one another. Hopefully we will see people engaged in employment because they’ve met someone. Hopefully we’ll see more people involved in recreation. You don’t know what will come from that. But we do know that opening doors can only bring good things.
What do you like most about Office Evolution?
Quite honestly, it’s the caliber of people we’ve been working with: the individuals that have been engaged to answer phones for us. We have a great trust and respect for one another. They are a part of our team and they know that. At least once a year I go to see them and thank them for the work they are doing because it matters. It matters greatly to the people we serve. I would say that each and every one of them feels invested in our mission. For us, to have a business partner that is so invested in our mission, means the world.
We wanted an organization that had a local presence and a local feel. I did investigate other services that were outside of our community but, because we have a mission that is so community focused, we wanted to make sure that our services were being rendered within our community. Office Evolution fit that bill. They had the right attitude in addition to the right location. So, it was a natural fit.
Valuing People and Communication: Lori’s top two business tips for nonprofit and for-profit organizations.
If you’d like to connect with Lori and become more involved with this chapter of The Arc, visit their website at https://www.arcjc.org/.
For more information about Office Evolution and how we can tailor a virtual receptionist plan or a Virtual Office Space for your business, visit our website or call 877-475-6300.