"Certainly, our mission to build decent affordable homes for those in need will drive our strategic goals for the future. Currently, I am working with the board [of directors] and staff on our strategic goals."
Dana DiMarco has joined Greater Providence Habitat for Humanity as the executive director, overseeing operations and management. Previously, she served as director of philanthropy at WaterFire Providence and before that, the Community Preparatory School. DiMarco earned a bachelor of arts in communications with a minor in psychology and sociology at University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1991. Here she discusses her new role and projects at Habitat for Humanity.
PBN: What key elements of your new role as executive director of Habitat for Humanity will you put into place to lead this nonprofit?
DIMARCO: The role of executive director enables me to assess all operational and funding aspects of the organization. I get to work closely with the board, staff, volunteers and donors.
Another key element is that as an affiliate, we have all these spectacular resources and support from the international headquarters. They offer conference calls, podcasts, webinars, mentor opportunities, marketing materials and so much more. I will be attending a formal training there in October. It is a very well structured and successful organization as a whole.
PBN: How will your previous work in philanthropy for Waterfire inform the work you do for Habitat?
DIMARCO: My previous roles as director of philanthropy have prepared me very well. As the executive director, fundraising is of course a priority. I have been in development for 22 years! I enjoy that role immensely. You get to meet so many great people and have relationships that last for years.
I am friendly with many people I have met from previous organizations. WaterFire specifically taught me how to work well with volunteers and also to believe you can do anything. That place is magic!
PBN: What projects is Habitat working on now and when will they see fruition?
DIMARCO: At the moment we have five houses that we hope to close on and move the families into this summer. And then we’ll start on a couple of others before the end of the calendar year.
We are currently working on starting two other Habitat for Humanity International programs here: A Brush with Kindness and a ReStore.
A Brush with Kindness is an exterior home preservation program that offers painting, landscaping and minor repair services to eligible homeowners, not just those that we built houses for, so they can continue to live in safe, decent homes for years to come. Projects include painting, landscaping, weatherization and minor repair services. This is a terrific program for us because it allows us to make a bigger difference in a short amount of time.
The ReStore is a nonprofit home improvement store and donation center that sells new and gently used furniture, home accessories, building materials, and appliances to the public at a fraction of the retail price. It will be owned and operated by the local affiliate and all proceeds will be used to help us build homes in our service area: in North Providence, Providence, Central Falls and Pawtucket.
We will test A Brush with Kindness this summer with some of our older Habitat built homes and grow it from there.
The ReStore is a longer term project. Johnson & Wales University’s directed work experience and marketing classes have been helping us with a feasibility study, a business plan and a marketing plan. It’s up to us now to find a location – which must be in our service area and meet our needs for retail, office and storage. And, of course, it will need to be at a reasonable rental or sales price. It would be excellent to be able to move in sometime in the fall and launch the actual store in the spring.
PBN: As the Greater Providence affiliate of the national organization, what are your strategic goals in this urban setting for the coming year and the coming decade?
DIMARCO: Certainly, our mission to build decent affordable homes for those in need will drive our strategic goals for the future. Currently, I am working with the board [of directors] and staff on our strategic goals. As mentioned earlier, they include finishing current projects and opening a ReStore. More strategies are being discussed – there are a lot of great ideas on this board!
PBN: How many members, friends and supporters do you have at the nonprofit and how do you plan to expand that network?
DIMARCO: Over the years, we’ve had tremendous support both on our building sites as well as committee members and donors. We are fortunate to enjoy a solid, loyal base of people who believe in our mission. Some people get involved Habitat for Humanity every time they move!
I wish I could put a number on our donor base, however I am reengineering our database and I don't have those numbers right now. They are high from what I have seen, and also come from different walks of life: from construction companies to churches; from temples to bicyclists; and, from college students to government. It seems everyone believes in Habitat for Humanity’s mission of providing decent affordable housing.