The mission of Finding One's Voice is to give youth voice through artistic expression.
Incorporated in 2014, Finding One's Voice (FOV) began serving youth in 2015 with its "Snapshots of Joy" program. FOV purchases and distributes disposable cameras to children and asks them to take pictures of things that make them happy. Once the film is developed, the children discuss, explore, and write about their perspective and motivations for taking the photographs. This program provides the opportunity for youth to reflect on and process their emotions. It is our hope that it lays a foundation for them to develop the inner fortitude to choose grace, calmness and compassion when facing life's adversities.
In a world that increasingly focuses on outcomes and immediate results, FOV emphasizes process. The course takes place over a five week time period, meeting 45 minutes to an hour each week. Cameras are distributed week 1 and are returned for developing week 2. Discussion centers around expected results and the reality that what comes back may be very different from what is expected. Conversation about looking at the images that are returned and finding joy or beauty in those images rather than an expected result are key. Once the photographs are returned to the children, they select their favorite image and write a personal reflection on why the chosen image brings them joy. FOV has that image enlarged to an 8x12. Both the enlargement and the children's write ups are mounted and an exhibit is held for friends, family and/or the public. In 2015 FOV served three children, that number has grown to 317 in 2017. There is no cost to the participants.
The inspiration for FOV was the sudden, shocking death of the founder's daughter as a result of relationship violence. In response to her death, the founder resolved to not let the last three minutes of her daughter's life define it. Rather she chose to focus on the grace her daughter exhibited throughout her twenty-six years. Grace, kindness and compassion are values at the core of FOV's work. Providing youth the opportunity to discover their emotions within, and process them, is a unique aspect of this program; particularly given the outcome-based and instant-gratification world today's youth experience.
1. FOV had a goal of serving 250 children in 2017. As the teaching time period is coming to a close for 2017, we will have served 317, surpassing our goal by nearly 27%.
2. At the start of 2017, FOV projected annual revenue of $17,750. To date in 2017, FOV has raised more than $85,000.
3. Two fundraising events were held in September 2017. A golf tournament that cost $3500 to hold and raised $22,500 (CofR 15.55%) and a cocktail party with a goal of raising $30,000 that has raised nearly $42,000.
4. FOV launched its first electronic newsletter in June 2017, successfully delivered to 341 subscribers.
1. Staffing. FOV is able to meet current demand but unable to grow at current staffing levels. Presently FOV has one person, the founder and executive director, who does everything from administrative work, accounting, maintaining inventory, teaching the course at all venues, planning, organizing and overseeing all fundraising initiatives and events, maintaining all databases, board management etc. In order to serve more children, another person is necessary to hold more than one session on the same date and time. Full time assistant to the Executive Director estimated salary $40,000.
2. Marketing. Delivery of program is limited with only one person on staff.
3. Customer relationship management database. FOV's database composed of friends and donors is at almost 800 people, managed in excel.
4. Strategic plan to, among other things, outline capital needs in anticipation of growth, rather than simply focusing on revenue to support programming. Consultant cost: $6,000-$10,000.
5. Diversification of revenue sources. FOVs revenue primarily comes from individual donors. It is time to change that by applying for grants and to foundations in an intentional and planned manner.
6. Expand social media presence.
Youth are provided the opportunity to explore and process their emotions. They learn to wait to see the fruits of their labor and manage their expectations. In focusing on process, the children experience freedom of thought and choice that come from within rather than from an outside paradigm. Class discussion emphasizes respect and kindness especially because the topics center on the children's thoughts and feelings. Individual children respond to this with confidence and a more relaxed attitude because they feel safe, collectively they practice civility of discourse, learn to listen, and become more comfortable in expressing emotion. This program accomplishes a great deal as evidenced by testimony from parents and feedback from participants.
As founder and executive director I do not and will not take a salary; however to build a sustainable organization I must spend my time more strategically both in fundraising and marketing the organization and its mission. It will be important to replace me with a paid Executive Director sometime in the next 3-5 years so my time is spent to its highest and best use. The first step toward that will be hiring an assistant to both teach and take on administrative tasks that are quite time-consuming.
I would like to find time to reach out to collaborating institutions, market the program and its curriculum to schools with the hope that it could be offered as part of an arts or writing curriculum during the academic day. We already work with one school in this manner and have been invited back.
Board Chair Statement
FOV was born out of tragedy, when founder and Executive Director Ann Beach’s daughter and my Goddaughter, Victoria McManus, then 26, became a victim of relationship violence in May 2014. Shortly after Victoria was killed, Ann knew she would start a nonprofit to honor Victoria’s memory and promote the things Victoria valued most – helping young people, writing and creating art. The initial challenge was to take Ann’s passion and energy and create an organization that could honor Victoria by providing youth the means to express themselves through visual art and writing. Ann recruited a Board with diverse skill sets, experiences, and ties to Victoria. At an early off-site retreat, mission and its delivery were refined. Funding came from the generous FOV network. A program was developed for local youth, “Snapshots of Joy”, that combined taking photographs, discussing their ideas and feelings, and writing about the experience.
By the end of 2017, 375 children will have participated in “Snapshots of Joy". In July alone, 160 were served in summer camps: four weeks, three venues, ten sections, 160 children! The course helps them develop patience; they learn to wait and when their photographs don’t turn out as expected, they sort through disappointment. They look at what is in front of them, learn to see something positive, joyful, even beautiful. Our belief is that this process develops adults who are kinder, more caring, and better able to withstand the impulsiveness and sense of urgency so prevalent in today’s world.
From a governance perspective, our next challenge is how to sustain the success of “Snapshots” and expand the reach of FOV. At fundraising activities, whether it be a golf outing or cocktail reception, we display the work of the children, their photographic images and writings about them. The effect this has on people is significant and moving. Our board is now focusing on how to grow, including adding staff and space, and the planning and attention to detail that requires. I look forward to continued success at FOV and the satisfaction we all receive from the effect we have on today’s youth and in maintaining the memory of Victoria with a smile on my face.