November 3, 2019; Crain’s Detroit Business

Focus: Hope, a highly respected Detroit nonprofit operating in the city since 1967, recently decided to spin off the Hope Village Initiative into a separate nonprofit. The aim is to allow the new neighborhood-based nonprofit to tap into the community more, while helping Focus:Hope shift away from real estate and refocus on its core programs of workforce development, early childhood education, and food for seniors.

Crain’s Detroit Business has been keeping up with the different struggles and changes with Focus: Hope. In January 2018, they reported on both the departure of the nonprofit’s chief financial officer and the sale of its headquarters.

Apparently, the nonprofit had been struggling financially for years. One of its board members noted that mission creep was common amongst organizations like theirs. Portia Roberson, Focus:HOPE’s CEO concurred. “We had mission creep and capacity issues with being able to be in the redevelopment space. We wanted to get to the cornerstones of what Focus: HOPE is known for.”

Mission creep is indeed a common nonprofit challenge. So many complex issues demand attention, and while nonprofits are often best suited to address them, sometimes a nonprofit takes on too much, and core offerings can suffer as a result.

In response, Focus: Hope has been reexamining its programs and operations. Crain’s Detroit Business just announced that Focus: Hope is turning its Hope Village Initiative into “Hope Village Revitalization,” a separate 501c3 operating as a community development corporation. The new nonprofit, which is being launched with an estimated $300,000 budget, will be governed by a 12-person board consisting mostly of neighborhood residents and one person from Focus: Hope. The director of the initiative and some of the paid staff and volunteers from Focus: Hope will move over to Hope Village Revitalization. Focus: Hope, by contrast, is a much larger nonprofit with an estimated staff of 200 and an annual budget of $31 million.

Last January, NPQ’s Derrick Rhayn noted many of the complexities of urban development when he wrote about Thriving Cities: A New Urban Agenda. His article is filled with complex policies and different approaches to housing and community development, showing the depth of that type of service work.

Focus: Hope, by separating out the local neighborhood real estate operations from its service work, aims to free up resources to focus on the direct-services-to-people part of its mission.—Sarah Miller

Correction: This article has been altered from its initial form to reflect the correct founding date for Focus:Hope.