Questions & Answers on Our Changing Structure
“I appreciate the tightened-up focus and consolidated programming.... A great move for the organization.”
—Foundation program officer, September 2016
Following are some questions and answers about this transition:
In January 2016, the Board of Directors of the Center for a New American Dream hired Tracy Bowen, a seasoned nonprofit executive, to help the organization narrow its focus and develop a plan for stabilized funding to deepen and expand its impact. Under Tracy’s leadership, the Board and staff embarked on a strategic planning process that has culminated in a series of changes that will streamline New Dream’s administrative structure, amplify its impact, and create a more financially resilient organization.
A key priority is to enhance our communications operation. We have a strong base of content, materials, and tools but no dedicated funding to support their distribution. We believe that the more that people know about our work, the more successfully we can share our tools and our ideas.
The new strategic plan taps into two growing trends in nonprofit administration:
Eliminate the executive director position and transition to collaborative leadership. We believe that a collaborative leadership structure makes sense due to the strength of the New Dream staff, who have exceptional working relationships, well-defined spheres of work, specialty skills, a collaborative and adaptable work culture, and shared commitment and passion for their work. This frees up funds for enhanced communications functions that will enable us to share our messages more broadly.
Move to a fiscal sponsorship (see below), which will dramatically reduce administrative costs such as accounting, insurance, auditing, and financial reporting.
Programmatic changes include focusing on New Dream’s best resources in our popular Simplify the Holidays and Kids & Commercialism campaigns, as well as investing in expanded features, functionality, and applications for our alternative gift registry, SoKind. We also will be investing in communications and outreach to promote the registry tool.
Together, these changes will support a leaner, more strategic operation that will strengthen New Dream’s capacity to deliver on its mission and that will sustain the organization into the future.
Why is the organization changing its name?
As of 2017, we will be officially changing our name from “The Center for a New American Dream” to simply “New Dream.” This is not a major change, as New Dream has been our informal nickname for years. However, being a “Center” is an outmoded concept for us, since we are now a virtual office rather than a traditional work space, and we also wish to embrace our growing international audience.
How is the organization’s structure changing?
Beginning in 2017, we will be entering into a Joint Plan of Work with Virginia Organizing, a 501(c)3 non-partisan, statewide grassroots organization based in Charlottesville, Virginia, that is dedicated to challenging injustice by empowering people in local communities to address issues that affect the quality of their lives. Beginning in 2017, Virginia Organizing will accept grants and tax-deductible donations on behalf of New Dream.
Since 2006, Virginia Organizing has incubated mission-aligned nonprofits with low-fee administrative support. The support and oversight functions that Virginia Organizing provides will enable us to make New Dream as nimble and lean as possible. This restructuring will allow us to allocate at least 90% of our funding directly into programmatic work. Because New Dream has no debt or pending legal liabilities, we will be able to smoothly transfer existing vendors and service providers to the new structure.
The Board of Directors of the Center for a New American Dream, along with our 501(c)3 status, will dissolve when we transfer into the Joint Plan of Work arrangement; however, a majority of our current board members will remain as members of a newly forming New Dream Advisory Council, including the following: Matt Stinchcomb serving as Chair and Jason Greenwald serving as Vice Chair. The Advisory Council will continue to provide expertise, guidance, insight, and support for the organization’s ongoing development. New Dream’s legal compliance and fiscal affairs will be overseen by Virginia Organizing.
We’re still here! Well, most of us: Tracy Bowen, who was hired this year to lead us through this process, is moving on. We are deeply indebted to Tracy for guiding us to a pathway for continued success.
We will be transitioning to a collaborative leadership model. Under this new model, the staff will collectively make leadership decisions about operations, program strategy, communications, and finances. This growing leadership trend in the nonprofit sector is proving highly effective for mission-driven organizations of New Dream’s size.
What does the new programmatic approach entail? What will happen to New Dream’s existing resources?
We’re in the process of redesigning our website to streamline offerings, by integrating the best of New Dream’s programmatic materials and resources with the practical tools embedded in SoKind, our alternative gift registry. In addition to taking a more integrated approach, the redesigned website will include enhanced registry functionality and, ultimately, a consumption measurement tool for users.
The redesigned website will feature New Dream’s popular Simplify the Holidays and Kids & Commercialism resources in a way that makes them accessible to new and wider audiences, while continuing to serve our existing followers. SoKind has a rapidly growing audience of individuals who are largely unfamiliar with New Dream’s broader resource offerings, and our intention is to utilize SoKind as a key gateway to pull this wider audience toward fresh ideas around consumerism that have informed New Dream's mission since its founding.
Are there any materials or programs that you’re discontinuing?
Most current New Dream materials and tools will be available on our new website. We are discontinuing our Collaborative Communities program and Get2gether initiative for now. However, the Community Action Kit produced as part of this program is still relevant and valuable to our mission going forward, and it will continue to be available for download on our website. We’d love to re-energize the Neighborhood Challenge program down the road when resources and capacity allow.
Is the current Board of Directors in full support of these changes?
Yes! All current board members participated in the 2016 strategic planning process that resulted in this new strategic framework, and our board voted unanimously to approve these changes. Our process also included reaching out to our founders and several past board members, who agreed that these steps constitute a very healthy and positive evolution for the organization. Early feedback from fellow leaders in the field, as well as major supporters, has been validating and instrumental in guiding our thinking on this path forward.
How can I make a donation to the Center for a New American Dream (New Dream)?
The Center for a New American Dream is incredibly fortunate to receive generous support from people who want to take proactive steps to reduce consumption and improve quality of life. Through December 31, 2016, donations can be made to the Center for a New American Dream through our website, or by sending a check (made out to “New American Dream”) to P.O. Box 797, Charlottesville, VA 22902. All funds will be used to directly support our work in streamlining our current program offerings in the areas of Simplify the Holidays and Kids & Commercialism; investing in expanded features, functionality, and applications for our alternative gift registry (SoKind); and in communications and outreach strategies to promote these tools and resources to a wider audience.
Starting on January 1, 2017, donations to New Dream will be made out to and processed by Virginia Organizing. Donors giving online will still be able to make a contribution via our website, which will also have detailed instructions about how to make a donation by check. All donations will remain fully in support of New Dream's work programs.
If I need to reach someone on staff, how can I do it?
You may reach out to our staff anytime with questions, suggestions, and ideas. Please feel free to email us at email@example.com. Executive Director Tracy Bowen will be available through December 31, 2016, and our collaborative leadership team—Casey, Edna, Guinevere, and Lisa—are available anytime. For specific staff email addresses, please visit the staff page on our website.
What are some of the most outstanding accomplishments of the Center for a New American Dream?
With its founding in 1997, the Center for a New American Dream sparked a new and unprecedented national conversation on materialism, living in balance, and the hidden costs of a high-consumption society. New Dream’s focus on the intersections between consumption, environmental degradation, and quality of life have made it truly unique among environmental organizations, and it has garnered significant achievements over the years, including:
- Forming an active, engaged, and vocal community of over 200,000 members;
- Creating a national network of government procurement officials dedicated to purchasing environmentally and socially responsible products that helped drive the markets for green cleaning products, hybrid electric vehicles, and 100% recycled paper;
- Conducting more than a dozen highly effective campaigns that raised public awareness around issues of consumption and educated consumers on ways to change their consumption patterns within their own homes and communities;
- Releasing three books, More Fun Less Stuff and What Kids Really Want That Money Can't Buy, both authored by New Dream founder Betsy Taylor, and Sustainable Planet: Solutions for the 21st Century, co-edited by Taylor and fellow founder Juliet Schor;
- Launching and spinning-off the Responsible Purchasing Network, which continues to thrive as an independent entity;
- Creating and marketing SoKind, an alternative gift registry that helps people reduce and shift consumption at key moments in their lives;
- Producing a large volume of practical resources to help individuals enact change both in their daily lives and in their communities—including our webinars, videos, action guides, and more.
- Providing global leadership through the United Nations, the President's Council on Sustainable Development, and other entities raising awareness about the need for limits to growth and an economy built on sustainable rather than excessive consumption; and
- Generating more than 6,000 media mentions in print, television, and radio.