By Margaret Leichtfuss, Executive Director, Scottsdale Leadership
Ted Taylor said he believes that his participation as a member of Scottsdale Leadership’s Class 26 was the catalyst for the dramatic growth and change over the last five years at Family Promise of Greater Phoenix, a Scottsdale nonprofit focusing on homeless families.
Taylor serves as executive director of the nonprofit and says, “I am a believer in Scottsdale Leadership’s power to change the lives of those who participate in the program who, then in turn, impact our community by their involvement. I am living proof of that.”
Originally a business entrepreneur and turnaround professional, Taylor built a successful career turning around businesses for profit.
“What few people know is that I wasn’t a joyful businessman. In fact, I was continuously conflicted over a skill for business which was completely separate from a desire to serve my fellow man,” he said.
Five years ago his pastor approached him about serving on Family Promise’s board of directors. He had no experience in human crisis or nonprofit management. The organization had struggled to make ends meet, and it was serving about 30 families per year in 2010.
The then newly acquired facility, a rundown eight-plex, served three to four families at a time with three staff members. When Taylor was approached to serve as its executive director, he asked the board to reject his application for the position if they were unwilling to grow. They embraced the challenge and his innovation-focused approach to impacting social change for these homeless families.
“The short story is that within four years we had tripled the number of families served, over tripled revenue, and nearly tripled the number of interfaith congregations we partnered with to provide free food and lodging to our families without expanding the facility one square inch,” Taylor says.
“Candidly, I believe the bulk of our success was via blessings. The first blessing was an invitation by a Scottsdale Leadership alum, who is one of our board members, to apply for Scottsdale Leadership.”
The connections Taylor made as a Scottsdale Leadership class participant introduced him to the Human Services team at the City, who passionately embraced Family Promise’s unique approach to rescuing homeless families. As a result, Family Promise was awarded with an $80,000 grant to modify its rundown facility to make a second day center—effectively doubling its capacity. The City planning department also helped them modify the organization’s conditional use permit from 20 people served onsite to 50, another blessing, he says.
At that time, Family Promise was the only homeless family shelter expanding to serve the growing waiting list of families who were homeless in the Valley.
“My Scottsdale Leadership connections and knowledge derived from the Core Program helped our board connect with companies, congregations and individuals who sought to serve those less fortunate. We experienced explosive growth, the ability to completely pay off all our debt, and serve over 350 families in the subsequent three years,” Taylor says.
In the spring of 2012, an executive from PetSmart’s national office called Family Promise after hearing about Cardboard City, a Scottsdale event that raises awareness about the plight of homeless families and raises funds for Family Promise.
“PetSmart wanted to work with Family Promise,” Taylor says. “Six months later, we opened the first ever onsite pet sanctuary in a homeless shelter to welcome pets with these homeless families.”
Today, that program has been duplicated by 182 Family Promise organizations across the nation, thanks to a multimillion dollar grant from PetSmart. This provides a solution for capturing those homeless families with pets who consistently refuse shelter if their pets cannot come with them to the shelter.
“My team understood that children are the ones most harmed by homelessness, and to give up a pet at that time could literally be the last shred of hope for these kids,” Taylor says. “Last year, over a third of our families had pets.”
As a member of Scottsdale Leadership’s class 26, Taylor learned about Scottsdale from the inside out—its infrastructure, civic entities and community initiatives. He also became a better steward of the Scottsdale community and the Valley at large.
“Frankly, I fell in love with this city, my classmates, and the network of alumni who passionately desire to make a difference for Scottsdale, the Valley and those less fortunate in our community…It helped me discover my passion in life and become a stronger and more knowledgeable person. I encourage business and community leaders and corporations to learn more about Scottsdale Leadership, and consider applying for next year’s class or support the programs of this valuable nonprofit organization.”n
Scottsdale Leadership’s Class 30 starts its rigorous nine-month Core Program in September, joining 1,010 alumni who have gone through the program. For more information on Scottsdale Leadership Inc., visit www.scottsdaleleadership.org. For more information on Family Promise of Greater Phoenix, go to www.familypromiseaz.org