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Nonprofit HR’s Blog

Feature written by Sidney Abrams



For the past 18 years, DC Primary Care Association (DCPCA) has facilitated the development and sustainability of an effective, integrated health care system in the District of Columbia striving to guarantee access to primary health care and eliminates disparities in health outcomes.


DC Primary Care Association maintains a workforce of approximately 25 professionals. Like many nonprofits of its size, these staff wear multiple hats, and HR had been handled by an administrative professional who also handled operations. As the organization matured, its HR needs became more complex and it became apparent to the leadership that there was a mismatch in the staffing of the HR function, not based on interest and passion but solely based on experience.


The leadership team at DC Primary Care Association decided that the human resources function finally needed the investment afforded to other functions. Earlier in 2013, Nonprofit HR had been brought in to assess the department’s compliance, process efficiency and effectiveness. Clearly, not having an HR professional in place made these hallmarks challenging.

The HR Cooperative

Once the audit and assessment was complete, the leaders brought the issues raised to the board with the hope of securing additional funding to invest in HR, specifically with the hope to improve staff engagement, compliance and fluency of operations. “Our decision to invest in an HR audit and assessment was critical in identifying our pain points and areas in which we needed focus and attention,” according to Danielle Duffy, Director of Finance and Business Operations at DC Primary Care Association. Duffy continued, “We started picking off low hanging fruit identified in the audit, those that brought us into compliance and those that had the most exposure to the staff and leadership.” With board approval, the decision was made to invest in ongoing HR support through Nonprofit HR’s HR Cooperative. This virtual consulting team has addressed the issues raised in the audit including updating the employee handbook, conducting a benefits broker review and facilitating an employee engagement survey.


Duffy is pleased with the tangible results that have come from DC Primary Care Association’s partnership with the Cooperative, including bringing rigor and transparency to the hiring process and greatly improving the effectiveness of the new employee onboarding process. She believes the culture at DC Primary Care Association is beginning to shift – HR is helping the leadership get at where misalignments exist between the staff’s passion for the mission and their dedication to the organization.

Intangibly, Duffy believes that employees trust in HR now, that there are better workflows and processes in place that she believes will bring about efficiencies, there are better lines of communications, and that staff are now more comfortable bringing issues forward. She commented “people see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Lessons Learned

When asked what other nonprofits could learn from their experiences, Duffy suggested that leaders do not need manage transitions on their own; they should find a partner, such as Nonprofit HR, to facilitate the work so that leaders do not get bogged down in minutia, can focus on their staff, and that the partner should bring demonstrated expertise to the table. Duffy has no regrets about DC Primary Care Association’s decision to outsource HR and proudly wears the hat of Chief HR Advocate.

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