The process of becoming nationally accredited has supported ICAN’s recent revenue growth and enhanced their reputation in the community. ICAN provides free, comprehensive programs that empower youth to be productive, self-confident, and responsible members of the community in and around Chandler, AZ.
1. Which accreditation does your agency hold and for how long?
ICAN holds the Council on Accreditation for After School Youth Program. We were accredited in 2009 and renewed in 2013.
2. What was the original reason(s) for becoming accredited?
Many people assume that just because we are a non-profit organization and provide free services, that we do not take our programs seriously. Becoming accredited helped us show that we are serious about our programs and policies and are an outstanding, qualified organization.
3. How has accreditation impacted the operations or functioning of your organization?
The accreditation process greatly helped organize every aspect of ICAN. Especially beneficial because ICAN relies heavily on grant funding for revenue, the accreditation process led us through the organization of all of our documents, policies and procedures. This not only made our annual audit process much smoother, it also made our grant application processes simpler because the documents were already in place. ICAN has grown significantly over the past six years, in part through the effectiveness of being accredited. When we were first became accredited in 2009 our annual budget was $600,000. We just completed our re-accreditation in 2013 and our annual budget has grown to $2.2 million.
4. What advice would you give to an organization becoming accredited for the first time?
The accreditation process is incredibly comprehensive, we did not realize going into the process just how thorough the process would be. This required two years of preparation before we formally applied to become accredited. As a non-profit, the process required a big commitment on the part of our board of directors – they were required to review and approve a number of policies on an annual basis. We were fortunate to have a consultant help us through the process, which was a great benefit. Having a consultant or dedicated staff for the application process is very important. Talking to another organization that has gone through the process would also be very helpful.
5. How did you motivate staff during the self-study and/or site visit phase?
We developed a timeline work plan that started 18 months prior to our re-accreditation. We held trainings at monthly staff meetings with games and prizes to quiz the staff on what they needed to know for their interviews. We also held mock interviews so that they felt prepared.
6. What is one way that accreditation has added value to you organization’s name recognition in the community you serve or to your outreach/public relations efforts?
Being accredited has helped strengthen our relationship with many partners, especially government entities including the Chandler Unified School District, Chandler Police Department, State of Arizona, City of Chandler and many others. These partners, in particular, appreciate the credibility that comes along with being accredited. Overall our accreditation has earned us a new level of respect within our community. We have also had several other local non-profits inquire about how we went about getting accredited.
7. How did your organization celebrate becoming (re)accredited?
We did celebrate! We held an employee pot luck luncheon to celebrate the whole team’s accomplishment and offered one free day off to all staff as a “thanks” to everyone.
8. About ICAN:
ICAN is a free, family-centered youth service located in the East Valley. We provide a full complement of programs proven effective in equipping youth to achieve personal and academic success by tackling substance abuse, gang involvement and juvenile delinquency. Specifically, eight out of 10 young people in the areas we serve are living in extreme poverty. Four of those children will go to bed hungry at night and eight will be using drugs or alcohol to cope with the harsh realities they face. Sadly, joining gangs becomes a more viable choice than graduating. ICAN exists to combat these issues and build a strong future for those in our community. ICAN is accredited by the National Council on Accreditation and was recently named “Outstanding After-School Program” by the Arizona Center for After-School Excellence. For more information about ICAN, call 480.821.4207 or visit www.icanaz.org.
Becky Jackson, President & CEO of ICAN Chandler
Twitter – @ICANChandler