2017-2019 Strategic Plan

Executive Summary

A History of Unconditional Love

Agape is a Greek word that means “unconditional love,” a guiding principle that has anchored Agape Therapeutic Riding Center’s approach since we first opened our barn doors in 1986. Today, as we celebrate Agape’s first thirty years and look ahead to our next chapter, unconditional love continues to guide all of Agape’s work, from enhancing cognitive, physical, emotional, and social well-being of people with disabilities by teaching horsemanship skills to developing critical life skills and personal well-being through equine facilitated learning programs.

Our Vision

We believe that lives can experience healing and joy in an environment where unconditional love and the wonderment of a horse connect, creating a haven for unbridled hope.

Our Mission

Agape cultivates personal growth by strengthening the mind, body, and spirit through unique horse-facilitated experiences.

Building Our Next Chapter

 

As Indiana’s largest and oldest therapeutic riding center and a Premier Accredited Center through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International, we are proud to have experienced tremendous growth over the last thirty years. Not only have we reached maximum capacity and levels of services at Agape’s Headquarters located in Cicero, Indiana, we have expanded to a second location in Martinsville, Indiana, where we provide ever-growing, year-round services at our Bradford Woods Equine Center. As we continue to watch the impact of our unique, high-quality programs grow at both Agape locations, we recognize the incredible opportunity to bring our approach to more individuals by exploring further expansion throughout Central Indiana.

 

With a commitment to our vision and mission, and a keen interest in exploring Agape’s growth in the most sustainable and impactful way, Agape engaged the trusted nonprofit consulting firm Hedges & Associates in 2016 to facilitate a comprehensive Strategic Planning Process.

Meeting Community Needs

 

To ensure that the expansion opportunities uncovered through the planning process were highly informed not only by the needs of our organization, but also by the true needs of the Central Indiana community, Hedges & Associates began the process by conducting a comprehensive Strategic Planning Audit, which included:

 

  1. An External Stakeholder Assessment utilizing a combination of in-depth phone interviews and an electronic survey to collect input from community stakeholders

  2. A comprehensive Internal Organizational Assessment with members of our Board of Directors and Staff to identify internal strengths, challenges, and opportunities

  3. A Comparative Analysis of two comparable therapeutic riding centers to identify potential strategies to strengthen our organizational model as we grow.

Emerging Opportunities

Through this inclusive research process, several key themes emerged:

 

Outgrowing Facilities

While current staff, horses, and volunteers are managing program delivery and operations exceptionally well, Agape does not have the physical space, horses, or personnel to expand services at the Cicero location. Yet, community stakeholders agree that we should serve more individuals throughout Central Indiana beyond the continued growth at Bradford Woods. In order to serve more individuals, we will need additional physical space, more horses, an additional indoor arena, more storage for equipment and hay, and more office space for a growing staff, all of which creates an opportunity for expansion that our leadership agrees should be driven by collaboration with other organizations that serve similar populations so that Agape’s programs can supplement existing supportive services.

 

Demonstrating Impact

Anecdotally, internal and external stakeholders agree that Agape’s programs are incredibly impactful. However, like other equine therapy programs, Agape struggles to demonstrate measurable outcomes that connect participation in Agape’s programs with long-term improvements in physical, social, emotional, or cognitive health. Without the ability to connect programmatic outputs with measurable, standardized, long-term impact metrics related to the health of those served, Agape will have difficulty growing the organization’s credibility, and consequently, its funding base, limiting the organization’s ability to scale growth.

 

Sharing Leadership

Staff and Board culture is very positive, collaborative, and supportive and our personnel have dramatically strengthened and formalized Agape’s leadership, operations, culture, and brand over the last several years. However, our significant reliance on key staff members for all aspects of fundraising and awareness, as well as day-to-day operations, will limit Agape’s ability to scale. To create continuity in business operations as we continue to grow, our leadership agrees that there is a significant need to focus on cross training, sharing leadership, and succession planning.

 

Increasing Community Knowledge

Agape’s recent rebranding and refreshed online presence has created increased attention from the community, including new donors, volunteers, and program participants. However, many community members in our service area are still not aware of Agape. As we continue to grow, we have a significant opportunity to increase awareness about our approach and the features of Agape that are unique in the equine therapy industry, such as dual locations, the ability to provide training for instructors, and our Mobile Minis.

3-Year Strategic Plan

 

Drawing on the comprehensive data and key findings from the Strategic Planning Audit, Hedges & Associates convened our Board of Directors for a highly strategic and vision-focused Planning Retreat during the summer of 2016. By carefully weighing a variety of opportunities for expansion against the needs of the Central Indiana community and our organization, our leadership identified the following three-year vision for Agape’s growth:

“By 2020, Agape will expand to a third location, spreading unbridled hope throughout Central Indiana by increasing access to our premier horse facilitated therapeutic programming.”

Utilizing this anchoring vision for the organization, Hedges & Associates engaged Agape’s staff in a hands-on Action Planning Retreat, during which three distinct organizational priorities were collaboratively created to guide the organization toward this vision for 2020. With a focus on preparing for expansion, each three-year priority was carefully developed to build our capacity and impact, preparing Agape to sustainably scale to a third location.

 

Priority 1: Focus on improving program delivery to ensure sustainable and impactful services.

Strategies

1.A.  Standardize program operating procedures, including program recruitment and planning protocols.
1.B.  Formalize evaluation practices to validate program outcomes and become an industry leader in therapeutic horsemanship.

 

Priority 2: Prepare for business continuity while retaining top talent.

Strategies

2.A.  Institutionalize personnel practices to maintain a positive work culture and high retention rate.
2.B.  Create and implement succession plans for current and new Board and staff positions.

 

Priority 3: Establish a sustainable financial model that will scale to support expansion.

Strategies

3.A. Strengthen and institutionalize fundraising expectations, storytelling, and donor stewardship for all members of the Board and staff.
3.B. Prepare for and execute a capital campaign to fund the expansion to a third location.

Action Plans & Implementation

 

In addition to identifying these three-year priorities and strategies, our staff also developed a 2017 Action Plan, which includes quarterly action steps, expected annual outcomes, and accountable leadership required to successfully implement each strategy during the first year of the three- year plan. This supplementary 2017 Action Plan will serve as a roadmap for the organization’s strategic activities from January – December 2017, coupled with a complementary Outcome Dashboard tool that will allow for continual measurement of progress toward all targeted outcomes. By utilizing real-time process evaluation throughout the implementation of the three-year plan, Agape will be prepared to develop a 2018 Action Plan and an updated Outcome Dashboard in the third quarter of 2017, and a 2019 Action Plan and Outcome Dashboard in the third quarter of 2018.

 

Agape Therapeutic Riding Center’s 2017-2019 Strategic Plan, which was developed through this comprehensive and inclusive process, was officially adopted by Agape’s Board of Directors in September 2016.