Organized as ONE

Organized as ONE
Recognizing Cincinnati 

Lending a hand makes a difference, but what about lending a hand to those who are lending their own hands? That's what one local organization does by helping other non-profits and recognizing the stand-outs. Discover the multiple layers involved in this do-gooder group.

One local organization makes others work for their "grub," as it teaches other organizations "to fish." Now, don't get the wrong idea, there's not really food involved, but ONE (Organizations of Noteworthy Excellence) lives out the old proverb, "Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime."


Founder Marie Gemelli-Carroll came up with the idea for ONE as she was working on a project for her client, the Business Courier. While the Business Courier provides several wonderful opportunities to help for-profit businesses grow and improve, Gemelli-Carroll realized that nobody really offered the same opportunities to non-profit organizations, which are businesses too. "They serve the public good, not just the share owners," she says. "By taking a systematic approach to delivering their value, they are businesses." 0110Fence_INSTORY.gif


So Gemelli-Carroll set out to provide improvement opportunities for the non-profits, and she started by calling her colleague Jim Lay. Lay has spent several years as an examiner for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award program, an organization through the National Institute of Standards and Technology that recognizes performance excellence in organizations across the country.


Gemelli-Carroll understands that "approach plus deployment equals results," she says, so she and Lay adapted the Baldrige criteria to create a self-assessment for non-profit organizations so that they might improve in both their approach and deployment and achieve results.


Recognizing the Four P's


While most non-profit organizations serve a worthy cause, ONE maintains the focus of the organizations as businesses. And to improve the approach and deployment, organizations must also look at their infrastructure rather than the cause they are supporting. 


So to help the organizations become efficient and effective and to recognize the outstanding non-profit businesses, ONE focuses on four factors: people, principles, process and performance. Each of these factors are addressed in the ONE award application. 061410VALLEYVIEW.GIF


Enjoying a Win-Win Situation


While ONE recognizes high-performing applicants, the program isn't exactly a competition. Instead of just handing out awards, ONE helps organizations grow stronger through its application and selection processes.


 Beyond its own assessment,, however, every organization that completes the ONE Application receives independent feedback from the ONE Award team of examiners, offering strengths and opportunities for improvement, all based on the application. "It's free consulting," Gemelli-Carroll says. "Here you have a team of both for-profit and non-profit [professionals] with business expertise who are providing their perspective on strength and opportunities for improvement for the applicant."


Leaving a Lasting Impression


Going through their self-assessment in the application process and then receiving the full feedback report all provides organizations with an invaluable experience. They are able to evaluate and re-evaluate themselves to constantly improve the way they work, which, in turn, improves their ability to support their cause.


"One doesn't stop once you get your feedback report," Gemelli-Carroll says. "What we hear from past applicants and ONE honorees is ONE is needed now more than ever in this economy because people need effective tools to look at how they do things now, and how they can do them better and leverage the financial and human resources they have."


Even beyond the organizations, the ONE process is helping improve the work of the examiners themselves. "We've had examiners from businesses who are consultants, who work in major manufacturing, major marketing areas who say, 'I'm using the training to be an examiner in how I approach my own work," Gemelli-Carroll says.


For the selected honorees, ONE continues through the examination process, but it also continues in the support of their fellow honorees. All of ONE's honorees are invited to be a part of the ONE Circle. As a part of the ONE Circle, honorees get together every other month to network and discuss improvement opportunities. "They're forming their own learning community," Gemelli-Carroll says. "They talk about issues that they share in leading a 21st century non-profit."


Taking a Taste of Their Own Medicine


As participating organizations are encouraged to re-examine and re-evaluate their approach and deployment, Gemelli-Carroll, Lay and the funding partners used their own process for ONE. "We and the funding partners stepped back and analyzed all of our own data," Gemelli-Carroll says. "We had to model the behavior we were expecting from our applicants and our honorees."


After taking a step back and looking at the ONE process, they are making some changes to the program. The changes are designed to simplify the criteria and the process in order to attract more applicants. Among those changes is the planned introduction of a series of working sessions. Starting in January and ending in April, these sessions all will fall well before the ONE Award application deadline in late May, and session participants are able to use the experiences to help them complete their ONE application.


Another major change for the ONE Award will be a switch to biennial awards. So the next ONE Award honorees will be recognized in 2011.


For more information about ONE, the application process and how to become an examiner, visit

Neysa Ruhl
Marie Gemelli-Carroll
Location: Lofts@4120

Linda Palacios -

Linda Palacios is the editor of Cincy Chic. Send her an e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .Read More >>

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