Single Mothers Outreach (SMO)
An interview with Yorleni Sapp, Executive Director
FJ: What lead you to start working with SMO?
SMO: Single Mothers Outreach is a grassroots organization originally founded in 1995 by divorcee Debbie Quick who sought peer support from other single mothers. In 1998, the agency acquired its 501(c) (3) nonprofit status, and it opened its storefront office in Canyon Country in 2002. After serving single mothers for over a decade, the Board of Directors began to question the drop-in service model, which often only provided emergency services to stabilize families in crisis. In November 2007, the Board began a major reorganization to improve the quality
and range of services SMO provides. SMO drastically expanded its services to move into the center of social service partnerships in the region. I became the Executive Director of SMO in 2016.
FJ: What is your favorite aspect of running a nonprofit?
SMO: My favorite aspect of running a non-profit is definitely the priceless satisfaction it brings to impact the lives of others. I am passionate about work with meaning. I believe all people have the right to live with dignity.
FJ: What are three of your nonprofits’ goals?
SMO: 1. Be the #1 resource for single parents in the vast Santa Clarita Valley region by providing comprehensive and timely services to meet their needs.
2. Raise community awareness of single parents’ unique challenges and the impact those challenges have on society at large and Santa Clarita in particular.
3. Set single parents on a successful path toward financial, emotional and psychological self-sufficiency.
FJ: What challenges have you encountered?
SMO: Funding is one of the biggest challenges for non-profits. Today the need for funding is even greater. Not only are there severe cuts in our budgets but also the increasing needs of people that we serve. Fundraising is also challenging in this present economic climate and we had to cancel our signature fundraising event. SMO continues to work tirelessly to provide critical services in mental health care, education, and community support. The COVID-19 crisis has affected nonprofits deeply and it is creating a new set of challenges that we will see in the near future as we all navigate this new normal.
FJ: What thoughts would you give to others who have similar aspirations?
SMO: This is a tough one right now. To start a nonprofit in the midst of a global pandemic is quite of a test and yet, if you have the passion and the resources it can become the best legacy you can leave behind. My best advice for anybody with love for nonprofit is planning, including planning for the unpredictable. It is to create a business plan with a sustainable model that fits the mission you want to fulfill and that is adaptable.
FJ: What are your responsibilities as the founder of your nonprofit?
SMO: The responsibilities of a founder may vary. As a tax-exempt organization, a nonprofit will be accountable to the people it serves, other funders, the attorney general, and the general public. A funder has a choice to be part of the staff or part of the board. Again, I am not the founder of SMO. I am the Executive Director and I am responsible of the operations, management, and administration. I report to the board and the board is responsible for assessing my performance. The board is in charge of the governance and together we strategize the direction of the organization. The board is the accountable and liable body for the organization.
FJ: Why do your supporters and followers stay loyal to your cause?
SMO: People support SMO for different reasons. While some believe that while supporting single mothers and their children, they are strengthening the community. Others support the cause because it resonates with their own stories. Some people understand the disadvantaged position that children from single parents have in society and how hard life can be for single moms. Others just want to support an organization that with full transparency and integrity.
FJ: How do you market your nonprofit, which tactics have been most successful?
SMO: SMO marketing is accomplished through several different platforms. Print advertising, networking, and direct mail are part of our traditional marketing tools. We also use digital marketing. As many other businesses, we make use of our website and market through popular social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our signature fundraising event is a great marketing tool. From all the different outlets I believe email blasts continue to be the most effective way to market.
FJ: Who inspires you?
SMO: My dad is my biggest source of inspiration. He retired after fifty years of service as the National Director of the Costa Rica Red Cross. He started to volunteer at a very young age and became later an international leader in the area of disasters. His heart for humanity and the desire to give back defined his work ethic and his career. As a father, he made sure his kids will pursue a college education and our own careers, but he made his goal to inspire us to use our skills in giving back and affecting change. I have chosen to respond by being in a field where I could play an active part in developing solutions to social issues. I feel thankful for every story shared around the table, for every lesson taught, and for the values and beliefs that have shaped me in who I am today.
FJ: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
SMO: I will say that nonprofit is a very challenging industry. It is hard. You have to know that in order to succeed it has to be run like a business and yet the profit, ultimately, is the social impact.
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