Home and Community Options (HCO) is a nonprofit organization that serves children and adults with developmental disabilities who are in need of residential and support services in order to live happily in Winona, MN, and area communities. Its mission is to help people with disabilities to become part of the community, providing engagement and personal growth opportunities.
HCO hosts an annual musical that serves as the nonprofit’s largest fundraiser and provides a way for individuals with developmental disabilities to become involved in the performing arts. Each year, the production raises nearly $100,000. HCO’s productions draw sell-out crowds and have the ability to pull in nearly 300 volunteers annually. It is estimated that these community volunteers donate $16,000 worth of volunteer hours each year.
This year’s production of The Little Mermaid involved more individuals with disabilities than ever, and casted more than 90 people. While some were part of the cast, many individuals who HCO serves helped create the set and served as emcees, vending, and backstage help during the productions. This year marked HCO’s 21 st musical.
Funding for disability services often does not cover all the various needs of those the organization serves. Money raised from the annual musical assists HCO in providing accessible equipment, medications, or other basic necessities for its clients who otherwise wouldn’t receive these supports as a result of budget shortfalls.
Suzanne Horstman serves as the organization’s Executive Director. Suzie began her career with HCO while in college 27 years ago. After discovering a personal connection with the organization’s mission and values, she turned her part-time gig into her life’s work. She has served in various roles at HCO. She became Executive Director in 2013. We had a chance to talk with Suzie about being a nonprofit leader. Here’s what she had to say.
1. What are some things you know now that you wish you knew when you first started as a nonprofit leader?
When I first started as an Executive Director, I didn’t realize the knowledge and support that other nonprofit leaders would offer me. We live in an amazing community and the nonprofit leaders have been a wonderful resource. I would definitely encourage new nonprofit leaders to start out their new role by reaching out and developing relationships with their nonprofit colleagues.
2. What has been your biggest source of pride as executive director?
My greatest joy has been watching the individuals with developmental disabilities that we serve gain independence and confidence as they become strong self-advocates. What an amazing sight to see a previously shy individual speak to three of her legislators in a room filled with more than 40 constituents!
3. What are your three biggest accomplishments in your career as a nonprofit leader?
I would never want to take credit away from the two previous executive directors or the amazing leadership team that really moves HCO forward. With that being said, three of the biggest accomplishments of HCO have been:
- Moving individuals out of institutions.
- Providing innovative solutions (such as using smart home technology) to support our individuals so they can become more independent.
- Providing opportunities for the individuals we serve to learn how to become strong self-advocates so they have a voice to change their world.
One of the most enjoyable parts of my career has been being a part of the HCO musicals.
4. What are the dominant challenges that you see nonprofit organizations facing, and what do you think would be viable solutions?
For any health and human service agency in Minnesota, the biggest challenge is finding qualified employees with a limited available workforce. Securing nurses, social workers, and skilled direct care professionals is difficult with the current workforce shortage and unemployment at an all-time low. One solution that we have identified is reaching out to the ever-increasing number of retirees that are looking for a way to give back to the community. We believe that this population has a great deal to offer those we serve.
5. What aspects of nonprofit accounting do you find most challenging?
Most of HCO’s funding comes from the state and federal government through Medicaid dollars. During the past month, we have seen a 7% reduction that will be passed on to providers. The most challenging part of our nonprofit accounting is the uncertainty of whether these funds will be available in the future.
6. How do you see the organization changing in the next two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?
As our main funding stream is going through significant changes and demographic research shows a continued decline in the workforce, we know that our agency will look very different two years from now. To maintain quality services for the individuals we support, we will need to continue to engage our community by offering opportunities for them to become more involved in the services that we provide.
More information about HCO and its annual musical can be found at www.HCO.org.