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NIFL-ASSESSMENT 2005: [NIFL-ASSESSMENT:1160] Funding and Accoun

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From: Marie Cora (
Date: Fri Jul 08 2005 - 12:57:04 EDT

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Subject: [NIFL-ASSESSMENT:1160] Funding and Accountability
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Hi everyone,

I hope this email finds you well.  I’m forwarding this post from Nancy
Hansen – it has been delayed due to problems with computer servers
(“unheard of!”).

Hi Marie and all:
I apologize for the delay in responding to your inquiry, Marie, but it's
been "the end of the month", the start of a new part-time employee's
orientation and, then of course, there's the Fourth of July holiday. 
Happy 4th everyone!
Marie wrote and asked:
<< Nancy, it's not clear in your reply if you receive federal funding
mandates use of the NRS system - if you do, can you describe for us how
you work within the accountability structure? If not, can you let us
know what types of things you do in your programs to provide services
without federal dollars?>>
Before I begin, I apologize for the length of my reply.  However - 
Our program is like Andres'.  We have chosen to find other means for
funding rather than deal with giving TABE tests and NRS system required
by our Dept of Labor.  Our agency doesn't view that we are any less
accountable to the people who matter -- the learners in our program. We
view it as a difference in philosophy.
The funding struggle is not new to our agency because we received very
little.  Even when the Dept of Education distributed the state grants
and we were able to report our Laubach scores at the end of each book,
we didn't get much.  But we got "further education" funded for our
learners (national conference participation) and that's the loss
factor.  Other than that, the little bit of money that we were awarded
was not worth the chance that our base of prospective students would
diminish because we were testing at the time of registration and at the
end of 50 hours (less than a year for most) showing no (or minimal)
gains. And it didn't seem to matter that our 50-60 people served weren't
"counted" anywhere.
We feel our program *is* accountable -- to our learners.  They know/can
see what they have learned.  They know what their learning challenges or
disabilities are.  They are meeting their personal life skill goals. 
And they don't have any need or desire to know a grade level.  All of
these comments came straight from our New Reader advisory committee at
the point we decided the federal trickle-down funding was not worth our
program's new registrants leaving us before we even get them into a
match with a volunteer.  Their feelings counted.
Our funding resource search increased.  We made more applications for
'other funding' from foundations, civic clubs, corporations, interested
individuals, city/county gov't.  We stepped up our fundraising event
efforts and have succeeded in building our Literacy Breakfast fundraiser
and adding a direct mail campaign.  We layered our "membership drive"
with 3 levels of giving. We are considering adding a 3rd FR event. Our
United Way has generously kept our program high on their priority list.
We don't expend more than we have - we live within our budget.  We all
but eliminated any participation in conferences and anything else that
would require us to buy airline tickets and hotel rooms. If we go to our
state capitol to voice our opinion?  It's a "day-trip" ... a LOOOONG
day-trip, but we spend the 8-hours RT on the road if we are needed.  We
have 1 F-T and 1/2 time paid staff with over 60 volunteers.  We use the
educational materials that we have - buy technology as we can afford it.
It's a nickel here and a dime there.  None of our fundraising efforts
have brought in thousands of dollars to keep our program going, but we
are still here.  
The sad part to our story is the reality: we hit the ceiling of how much
we can grow and how much variety we can offer to the Literacy Level 1
and 2 learners.  We always cap-out at 50 matches and then find the
long-term matches drop away because we can't offer the needed office
support required for each Tutor/Reader match.  We don't have the
staffing to do a lot of outreach work and know that Health Literacy, the
Right to Vote and other social issues could be a part of our community
effort -- if we had more people to 'do the work' -- a big "If".  
With the help of volunteers, we have made an effort to do a little of
all of them, but no huge projects.  As an example, we want to work with
prospective literacy-level learners in the halfway houses and jail, but
have struggled with them both needing a lot of constant attention.  We
do what we can, when we can do it.  
Our learners have been openly appreciative that our program is easily
accessible and that the agency considers they are adults with very
fragile self-confidence.  So I guess it's worth the extra effort on my
and our Board of Directors' part.  They are what counts to us.
Nancy Hansen
Sioux Falls Area Literacy Council

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