There exists a well-established national organization, which offers therapeutic horseback riding programs to children with physical disabilities. Understandably, many of these programs are in rural and suburban locations, where there are horse barns, but none existed in the big cities. Ten years ago, one woman started such a program with just one horse in an old barn in the heart of Brooklyn, New York. Today, the program teaches 350 children in five locations with the help of 400 volunteers. I was invited by the founder to meet with her regularly on an informal basis and discuss with her and act as a sounding board for the many issues facing the young organization as it grew rapidly. As the organization grew, my ‘coaching’ evolved to a more structured role, allowing more interaction with other members of the organization, including the board.
The program has always been nearly free for the kids, most of its costs covered by charitable contributions. However, both the City and State have substantial funding available for therapeutic programs for children. Currently, I have been working with the Executive Director, staff and board to rethink and re-orient the organization from a volunteer-based horseback riding group, to a City and State recognized collaborator with a structured program based on therapeutic riding.
Additionally, we’ve set a goal of increasing our capabilities and the number of riders to 1000!
Key success factors:
- Recognize that a ‘mission driven’ organization with high operating costs and many ‘dependents’ has to generate revenue, even if modest, to assure its ongoing work and sustainability
- Guiding a group of people with diverse backgrounds, and often strong opinions, to listen,communicate and build consensus
- Much of the strength of an organization is in its members’ devotion to the ‘cause’