Motivating Addiction Recovery Program Participants (Part 2)


Chapel services at KCRM

When I came to Kansas City in 1990 and my focus turned from direct involvement to training people to become addition counselors and helping them to manage more effective programs. However, I’ve stayed in touch with the “hands on” dimension of recovery work by volunteering at local rescue missions and for other organizations that help addicts and their families. Conducting chapel services for program participants and interacting with them is something I always look forward to doing.

One local mission, the Kansas City Rescue Mission, where Joe Colaizzi serves as executive director, is an example of a rescue mission recovery program that is doing a lot of things right. Their recent follow-up efforts reveal that for three years running, 70% of their graduates are still sober for year or more after leaving the mission. This is a very good rate of success. So, what are some of the things they are doing to promote such success?

A. They have a well-organized program — A “program” is best defined as “the planned, organized, and systematic delivery of services — using both internal and external resources— with the goal of meeting the unique needs of each individual.” The key words are “planned” and “systemic.” This means that everyone – staff, administration, volunteers, and clients — are all “reading off the same page.” At the Kansas City Rescue Mission, everyone knows what is expected – what staff members expect of residents and what residents can expect of staff members. Their daily schedule is clear and events begin on time. Their rules, which kept to a minimum, are well established and upheld equitably. Since sobriety is rule number one, any use of intoxicating substance leads to immediate dismissal with possible readmission after a predetermined time, 30 days in most cases. Being well organized means minimizing external distractions and “game-playing” and keeps people focused on working on themselves. The Kansas City Rescue Mission has achieved something very special — the men in the program are so committed to recovery that it is “self-regulating.” As a result, people who do not want to recover don’t stay. And, the staff members are spending most of their time helping people instead of enforcing rules.

B. They are not “re-inventing the wheel” — To assist our member missions, when I worked at the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, we published a resource in 1993 called A Guide to Effective Rescue Mission Recovery Programs. The principles contained in this 12 tape staff training tool are well established and proven to work in the treatment and rescue mission recovery field. (available free online here) The Kansas City Rescue Mission has fully implemented our suggestions. They use regularly updated written client recovery plans. Their classes include relapse prevention and other addiction-specific topics, along with Biblical. And, they have well-defined phases through which participants progress. These phases are not simply time-based, but are instead based on residents attaining specific recovery-oriented goals, as contained in their written recovery plans, if they are to move into higher stages of the program. Program people are motivated by instruction and activities that “get right down to where they live”. If we are dealing with the real, pressing areas of need in their lives, they will be more committed to the process. This is how we show them we understand them and are, ourselves, committed to helping them to become all God wants them to be.

C. They help program participants to recognize their progress and celebrate with them over it. – One of the most important duties of mission staff members is to maintain an environment that encourages people to make changes in their lives. A big part of this is rewarding people for making good choices that lead in a godly direction. I saw this in practice during a recent program chapel service at the Kansas City Rescue Mission. Every month they recognize those who have some months of “clean time” by giving out AV chips during their chapel services. And, those who are moving to a higher phase in their programs receive a printed certificate to recognize and acknowledge their progress. Program participants are always more motivated when we give them “benchmarks” by which their progress can be measured. They need to feel they are getting somewhere and not just biding their time at the mission. Developing written recovery plans with regular reviews and updates will accomplish this. And, just as KCRM does, we need to reward them for attaining them. More than anywhere on earth, rescue missions ought to be filled with the type of joy and celebration we see in the father of the prodigal son. He exalted over his son who was lost and now is found. A simple little plastic coin or computer-printed certificate given to them in front of their peers may not be a fatted calf or golden ring. But, they can mean a lot to someone who has been experiencing nothing but failure for years on end. Let’s be sure to find creative ways to recognize and celebrate even small changes and right decisions.

(Most of this article originally appeared in Rescue Magazine January/February 1997 AGRM)

See also Part 1   and   Part 3 of this series.


Fundraising: Where Do I Start?

Times are changing. In our present economy, nonprofit organizations that once relied on government and grant funding are looking to individual donors for a greater percent of their operating revenues.

Truthfully, if done right, building and nurturing a base of committed givers can provide a stable, long-term source of revenue.   It’s going to take some time and research but it will be well worth the effort.

Too many people have a “home run” mentality when it comes to fundraising; the notion that there’s some mysterious benefactor out there who’s going to drop a big gift in their lap that will fund their dreams. Sorry, people usually do not usually want to support someone they don’t know. It’s the ones who know you best and who already feel a tremendous amount of good will for you and affinity with your organization and its mission that are most likely to give you money.

If you want donations, start with the “low hanging fruit” — those who are within arm’s reach. Here are your hottest prospective donors, listed in order of the most likely to give:

1) Those who have already donated.   Compile a list of those who have given previously with names and contact information plus the amounts they gave.   Pay special attention to which projects or appeals they’ve responded to.   This will help you tailor the right approach to them.   Remember, since they’ve already demonstrated a willingness and a capacity to donate, they will probably do it again if asked appropriately!

2) Talk to board members about making regular gifts.   I recently talked with a board member who said, “You want me to donate?   Isn’t it enough for me to give my time and my advice?”   My response was, “Haven’t you heard ‘where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.'”   In other words, where we direct our money shows exactly what we truly care about in our lives.   Board members are intimately acquainted with your nonprofit and its needs. So, they ought to be the ones most likely to invest in it financially.

3) What about the friends and family members of your staff and board members?   The old adage goes, “People support people, not causes.”   Those who know us best are often excited to support those whom they care about and good causes in which we are involved. This could be done by simply asking staff and board members to provide you with names, “snail mail” addresses and email addresses.   Additionally, they could be encouraged to invite those same people to visit the organization in person or to attend a fund raising event.

4) Then there’s your volunteers.   Like the board member I just mentioned, some nonprofit leaders think, “They’re giving us their time. Isn’t that enough?”   Well, the fact that they care enough about your cause to actually get involved makes them among the most likely donors!   Of course, we don’t ever want to use a “hard sell” approach with volunteers, friends or family members.   Just don’t automatically assume they wouldn’t want to contribute.   We need to make sure they are given the opportunity to participate.   You might be surprised at what a good response you will receive!

5) People who have been truly helped by your work and those who have a loved one or friend who has been helped.   Have you saved all the letters of people who said they have been helped or blessed by your program’s services or your own writing or speaking?   Guess what, they are very likely to support you financially as well!

6) Lastly, how about individuals you have met face-to-face?   People who have been in your presence, seen your face, heard you speak and felt your passion and vision are also the most likely to give money to support your organization.     Making a donation is more of an emotional response than an intellectual one.   People love to give to people they have met and with whom they feel a close tie.   We live in a new age when it comes to charitable giving.   Younger donors want to get up close and personal with people they respect and admire – those who are doing things they really care about.   So, how about thinking of ways to get them on-site at your organization’s facilities?

Nothing can be more moving than actually seeing the people you serve and feeling their needs and watching you meet them firsthand every day. Finally, let me tell you about an essential tool for starting effective fund raising – Developing Your Case for Support by Timothy L. Seiler.   It is a workbook that will help you to gather and organize all of the critical information about your organization you will need to confidently ask people to give to your work.

Motivating Addiction Recovery Program Participants (Part 1)

The more time I spend with rescue mission recovery programs, the more I’ve become convinced that the most important gift we can give homeless addicts is community, a place to belong. Homelessness is a state of complete disaffiliation–being cut off from all meaningful and supportive human relationships.

Suc ­cessful residential recovery programs actually provide a supportive “family” environment where homeless addicts can examine their lives and take the difficult initial steps toward a new, sober, and productive life.

There are two other important communities that program participants must become involved with so the process of change begun at the mission continues after they leave. The first is the Church, the Body of Christ, where program graduates experi ­ence fellowship with other believers and spiritual nurture. The second is the recovering community where involvement with support groups for recovering addicts give them a place to continue personal growth through mutual sharing and encour ­agement with others who have overcome addiction.

Creating an Environment That Encourages Change

So, how is a supportive “family” atmosphere created in a mission? It takes a coordinated effort by mission staff members to ensure that a therapeutic or conducive environment is main ­tained in a residential facility. Attention to the following dynam ­ics will greatly encourage a sense of order and help create an atmosphere that encourages change.

A. Drug Free — There must be immediate and serious consequences for any use of alcohol and drugs by program partici ­pants. The normal procedure is dismissal from the program for at least 30 days, often asking participants to return to the tran ­sient area of the mission. This rule helps to create an attitude of seriousness among all participants. If program people know they have “one drunk in the bank” they will surely use it.

B. Stable – Clearly communicated rules and policies maintained on a very consistent basis are the key to program stability. This involves clear expectations regarding which behaviors are rewarded, and which are censured. Favoritism and disunity among staff members regarding program policies seriously dam ­ages the sense of stability.

C. Segregated — People who are working on recov ­ery and change must be separated from other homeless people who are not in the program. Separate eating times and sleeping areas creates a special “chemistry” among program participants. It allows them to experi ­ence a fellowship where they can encourage one another toward change and growth.

D. Emotionally Safe – A sure sign that a person is beginning the process of genuine recovery is the return of the emotional life. They begin feeling again, and much of what they feel is pain and grief. To continue to recover, they must feel supported and know that they are in an environment where they can safely and freely express the struggles they are experiencing.

E. Confidential — Personal information about clients must stay within the program and the staff members directly working with those involved in the program (the “treatment team”). This is essential to maintain the trust of program participants.

F. Real Listening — There is healing value in self-revelation. This is greatly encouraged when program participants discover that other people, especially staff members, are genuinely interested in their individual needs, hopes, and aspirations. In my opinion, if each participant cannot receive a one-on-one session with a staff member at least once a week, the program is seriously understaffed.

G. Respect– Program participants must be treated with dignity, despite how much denial they’ have or what sort of mess they have made of their lives. Home ­less people are still God’s unique creations and deserv ­ing of the respect and the love and the honor that they have simply for that if nothing else.

H. Individualized Attention – We can only be of real help to people when we know what their real needs are. This begins with special efforts toward a formal ­ized needs assessment. Then, using the information we’ve gathered, an individualized written plan for recovery can be developed. Establishing simple goals and objectives allows both staff and residents to see whether there is progress in the ef ­forts toward change and growth. This also communicates to program participants that fact that they are truly important to the program staff.   A rule of thumb: If you cannot provide at least a weekly one-on-one session with each program participant, you are seriously understaffed.

I. Every Activity Has Therapeutic Value — Most missions depend on long-term program participants to do much of the work to maintain their operations. Still, we must avoid giving program participants the feeling that they are being used. They need to know they are not just free labor, but that even the work they do has a therapeutic rationale that is also helping them at the same time. As you might imagine, none of these will be in place at your program by accident it is the responsibility of staff members and administrators to carefully watch over the therapeutic environment. Only by doing this can you create a place that motivates clients and promotes long-lasting change.