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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with David DeVries, November 23 and December 2, 1998. Interview S-0010. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

CCL faces the need to systematize

CCL developed a more rigorous planning process a few years after DeVries's arrival, he recalls. Initially, researchers moved forward with their ideas without considering issues such as budget, but when money ran short, CCL leaders were forced to systematize their processes.

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Oral History Interview with David DeVries, November 23 and December 2, 1998. Interview S-0010. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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The typical process as it played out in the 70's and 80's was that the strategic planning, which again, when we say long range, what does long mean? It tended to be one and three years kinds of efforts, with the one year plan being in some detail, three years being more broad brush. And it was launched annually in conjunction with the annual budgeting process. It wasn't driven by the budgeting process. In fact, again, one change we made was we experimented with that and kept this process, I believe, as long as I was there. We said, "Don't start with what you think you need in the way of money. Start with what you want to do." We'll start with the scope of work, we'll review that, and then we'll come back and then we'll look at the issue of the budget that's needed to do that. That would tend, that effort again, would play out and it would be done principally within a group, with input from other groups that were one way or another linked into their work. One impact that the planning process really had in the late 70's and early 80's. It really introduced some accountability – some much needed accountability – into the whole planning process into the management of the place. I think it was in 1979 that we had generated some really ridiculous, ambitious plans. We spent money in '79 based on those and then ended up as the year went on, very short of income. That led to our having to let go of 10% of the people. We had 70 people then and we had to let go of seven people. It was pretty traumatic for the organization. And that was a watershed event in the management of the place in that it really pointed out that the numbers we were creating, we were attaching numbers to ideas, really did matter a great deal. This wasn't just some silly exercise to satisfy the board. These numbers, when acted on, would have real consequences. So if you'd say, "Give me $100,000 because I've developed this new program and the new program will generate $50,000 in revenue," but at the end of the year, it yielded $5,000 in revenue, that had huge implications.
On the bottom line, right.
Yeah. That was not needed in the early to mid 70's because at that time revenue was relatively irrelevant. Revenue from the staff's efforts themselves comprised about 10% of total revenues. Over 90% of the revenues came from the foundation. All you had to do was to show up at 8:00 and stay until 5:00 and keep your nose clean. So as we moved into the late 70's and as the foundation's support grew smaller in proportion to the total budget, we had to develop some real discipline. We had to define more clearly what we were going to be doing and what that would cost and also what revenues that would generate. And we had to do that with some reasonable degree of accuracy. And it was the shock of 1979 that really awakened us to the importance of that.