Connie Hanner became executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Rhode Island-Greater Providence last month, arriving here from her 10-year tenure as executive director of a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in western Kentucky.
Hanner said she’s taken on the new role to help the organization gain a new vision and focus on planning, including increasing its corporate sponsorships, to help cure what she called a “serious short-term cash flow crisis.”
PBN: What do you see as the organization’s greatest current challenge?
HANNER: The ability to develop and depend upon sustainable revenue sources. The organization is working diligently to open a ReStore in the next few months, develop an individual donor base and develop ongoing partnerships to help us maintain our mission to serve families with affordable mortage solutions in the greater Providence area.
PBN: Your new role will be to help the organization move forward with its mission’s expansion. Can you explain how Habitat for Humanity is seeking to expand its mission?
HANNER: The organization needs to develop a long and short-term strategic plan to help it survive in a depressed economy. Lack of planning in the past has left us vulnerable and we need to move quickly to ensure that the organization survives.
We have several short-term ways to increase our cash position. The first is membership in the Carpenter Club. For a $20 donation you are entitled to savings at our ReStore, notifications of build dates, and the chance to participate in the build. We will also open the ReStore in the next few months. We are seeking retail space that will feature gently used building materials, furniture, and housewares. We also are looking to increase our corporate sponsorships. We will reach out to organizations that have helped in the past and look to develop strategic partnerships with organizations that wish to join our mission to eliminate poverty housing. These sponsorships can be as little as $1,000 or an entire house sponsorship of $140,000.
PBN: Is there an identified need to be able to mortgage more projects above the organization’s 11 houses per year capacity?
HANNER: Right now we have halted qualifying families for mortgages and on breaking ground on any more houses until we are able to fix our financial issues. We are asking for the help of the community to work with us to continue the mission of Habitat for Humanity.
PBN: There are four Habitat for Humanity affiliates in Rhode Island. Is there regular collaboration amongst the organizations?
HANNER: Yes, collaboration among the affiliates is critical to the success of the organization nationally. Each service area is approved by Habitat for Humanity International so that a designated service area can receive the attention it needs. In the case of Greater Providence and the South County affiliates, this is achieved with a volunteer board and staff. In East Bay and West Bay, this is accomplished with an all-volunteer board and no staff. We are autonomous in that we raised the funds needed to operate our individual affiliates.
PBN: Why the move from western Kentucky to Providence?
HANNER: I was looking for a challenge and I found one in Providence. It was obvious the affiliate needed some new vision and new leadership. Make no mistake, we have a rough road ahead but together we will make a new beginning for Habitat for Humanity of Rhode Island – Greater Providence. Habitat for Humanity is a hand up, not a hand out. The 73 families that have benefitted from home mortgages since the organization began in 1987 have been successful. We wish to continue this dream.