Elk Valley Hospice leads with heart

Serving five communities in the East Kootenay region, the Elk Valley Hospice is run by a volunteer board of directors. They hired a new Coordinator in March 2023 and with the help of the Trust’s Non-Profit Advisors program, they developed a new Strategic Plan and clarified the non-profit’s vision and direction.

3 minute read

Strategic plan for local non-profit shapes a compassionate future

Elk Valley Hospice has a clear vision: no one has to grieve or die alone. Focusing on dignity and compassion, the registered charity offers free companionship and support services to those coping with end-of-life and bereavement experiences.  

Serving five communities in the East Kootenay region, the hospice is run by a volunteer board of directors who hired Coordinator Jade Elford in March 2023 and asked her to develop a new Strategic Plan to clarify the non-profit’s vision and direction.  

Elford sprang into action by enrolling the organization in Columbia Basin Trust’s Non-profit Advisors Program, which helps improve the capacity and sustainability of non-profit organizations in the Basin. With the guidance of an advisor and a consultant, Elk Valley Hospice developed a strategic plan that established a new vision and mission statement, and identified five strategic goals along with a work plan. 

“Both the advisor and consultant took a holistic approach, looking at our service with a more neutral lens rather than being specific to hospice,” says Elford. “It gave us the ability to go through each of our key business areas, and our strengths and weaknesses, which was a big learning opportunity. We felt comfortable bringing everything to the table and now we have a clear direction forward.”  

The renewed plan includes becoming more financially sustainable, increasing awareness in the community, improving volunteer retention and recruitment, providing more community education opportunities, and improving board governance. The project was completed at the end of August 2023, and Elford has already seen some positive results.  

“People are definitely starting to engage more with the hospice and have told me they’ve seen the new strategic plan on our website,” she explains. “I also feel a stronger connection with the staff at the hospital where we have an information kiosk, and I’m hoping we’ll get more referrals. Building more of a social media presence and personally connecting with our communities is also helping to spread awareness.” 

Started by a group of local Elk Valley women in 2002, the community-based hospice has since grown to a team of over 30 volunteers and members that guide patients and their families through end-of-life and bereavement journeys in hospital or assisted living settings, at their homes or over the phone. The organization aims to make hospice more accessible and approachable as they continue to grow sustainably and develop their course offerings. 

“We’re focusing on helping our communities prepare for these important transitions through more education around death, dying and grieving,” says Elford. “It can be difficult to talk about without the necessary language and skills around experiencing loss. If families already have some resources and knowledge around what to expect, they’ll feel more prepared when it happens.” 

Elford and the hospice board are grateful for the experience they had with the Non-profit Advisors Program, which included a review of future opportunities. The hospice hopes to eventually add more training sessions on grief and bereavement and advanced care planning. The organization also wants to open an office space one day.  

“During our strategic planning session, there was a really strong heart connection in how we established the hospice’s vision,” Elford adds. “When focusing on the business side of the non-profit, it’s easy to lose track of the bigger purpose of what we’re trying to achieve. But at the end of the day, with the program’s guidance, our biggest takeaway was to lead with the heart.”  

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