Better Decisions
2106 19th Avenue South
Nashville TN 37212
better decisions
Mission Statement
Our mission is to teach and foster decision-making and life-planning skills among women who are incarcerated, and others expressing interest, by means of a structured curriculum delivered by trained volunteers. The ultimate goal is to reduce recidivism among female offenders and to break the intergenerational cycle of crime by teaching women (most of whom are mothers) how to gain more control over their lives by setting goals, deciding rather than reacting, and making and sticking to concrete plans for changing their attitudes and behaviors.
Leadership
CEO/Executive Director
Board Chair Ms. Peggy West
Board Chair Company Affiliation Community Volunteer
History & Background
Year of Incorporation 1999
Former Names
DECISIONS
Organization's type of tax exempt status 501-C3
Financial Summary
 
 
Projected Expenses $39,050.00
Projected Annual Revenue $39,050.00 (2014)
Statements
Mission Our mission is to teach and foster decision-making and life-planning skills among women who are incarcerated, and others expressing interest, by means of a structured curriculum delivered by trained volunteers. The ultimate goal is to reduce recidivism among female offenders and to break the intergenerational cycle of crime by teaching women (most of whom are mothers) how to gain more control over their lives by setting goals, deciding rather than reacting, and making and sticking to concrete plans for changing their attitudes and behaviors.
Background Better Decisions began in 1985, when a concerned and knowledgeable community volunteer (Candy Markman) observed that women leaving prison had an especially difficult time making the transition back into the community. Most of these women struggle with substance abuse, and many have a history of physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse. More than 50% lack a high-school diploma or GED. Institutionalization strips away any opportunity for decision-making; and yet, upon release, these women are expected to find housing, jobs, and rejoin their families and communities as fully functioning members. While searching for a prerelease program that would better prepare women for release, Candy discovered an eight-week decision-making curriculum. She recruited community volunteers as mentors, and began the first cycle at TPW in January 1985.  Initially a program under the umbrella of other nonprofits, Better Decisions incorporated as a 501(c)3 in March 1999. Twice a year, Better Decisions has trained 25-30 new volunteers during a 10-hour weekend workshop in Nashville. (The Board voted in 2007 to limit trainings to one weekend per year to increase efficiency and decrease costs, and to focus more on volunteer retention.)  Volunteers are then matched with inmates at the Tennessee Prison for Women who have voluntarily signed up for the program. The 8-week cycles include two components: (1) a Monday night class, taught by two experienced volunteer teachers, in which 15-20 inmates learn a 5-step decision-making model, and (2) 1-on-1 sessions later in the week in which each inmate meets with her trained volunteer mentor to practice and reinforce the skills she learned on Monday night. Both teachers and volunteer mentors use a structured curriculum.  Over 1,500 inmates have graduated, and about 1,130 volunteers have been trained and partnered with incarcerated women.
Impact
Last Year's Impact
1)37 TPW inmates graduated from the core program, all of whom were matched with experienced 1-on-1 volunteer partners.
 
Current Year's Goals
1) Continue core program at TPW in spring and fall 2014; 2) Hold Energizer event for experienced volunteers in January and volunteer appreciation event in May 2014; 3) Train new volunteers in Sept. 2014; 4) Begin planning for  30th anniversary celebration in 2015.
Needs
1. Volunteers
2. Financial support for operational expenses
3. Research assistance (for statistical analysis of recidivism among program graduates)
4. Assistance with editing and new graphics for curriculum revision.
5. Additional Board members.
Other ways to donate, support, or volunteer
We gratefully accept donations in any amount!  Two options are available:  1) Donate by credit card on www.givingmatters.com or 2) Mail a check to Better Decisions, P.O. Box 120754, Nashville, TN 37212.
 
We also train new volunteers in Sept. of every calendar year.  For more information, please see our website www.betterdecisions.org.
Service Categories
Primary Organization Category Crime & Legal - Related / Inmate Support
Secondary Organization Category Human Services / Human Services NEC
Tertiary Organization Category Public & Societal Benefit / Public & Societal Benefit NEC
Areas of Service
Areas Served
TN - Davidson

The Tennessee Prison for Women (TPW) in Nashville is one of only 2 state prisons for females in Tennessee (the other is in Memphis).  TPW is located in north Nashville, in the Bordeaux area, near the intersection of Briley Parkway and Ashland City Highway.

CEO Statement
Better Decisions fills a gap in programming at the women's prison by providing much-needed instruction in life-planning and decision-making skills. Inmates not only benefit greatly by gaining competence and confidence in their ability to make wiser choices, they also profit from their contact with women from the Free World. In many cases, an inmate's 1-on-1 weekly session with her trained volunteer partner is the only visit she receives during her incarceration. Volunteers thus serve as invaluable role models for women who are largely invisible to the community. Better Decisions truly builds bridges between women behind the walls and women in the greater Nashville community. We strive for a diverse volunteer pool, and provide a uniquely gratifying volunteer experience. Written evaluations consistently reveal that volunteers, as well as inmates, find participation in BD to be a unique learning experience. Better Decisions is a volunteer-driven organization, employing just one part-time staff person who maintains a home office. Every donation goes directly into program services, with very little lost to administrative or development costs. Donors know that their dollars are well spent.
 
Administering Better Decisions at the TPW has been challenging in 2013 due to recent changes in TDOC regulations governing volunteer certification.  We reluctantly postponed our Sept. 2013 training for new volunteers in order to give the TPW staff time to develop and implement new policies in order to be in compliance with federal mandates.  While these changes have impacted the numbers of inmates/volunteers who participated in the past year, our dedication to continuing  Better Decisions at TPW has by no means decreased.  Funding remains strong and we anticipate a return to previous graduation levels in the fall of 2014.
Programs
Description Better Decisions provides two 8-week cycles of instructional programming annually. The 20-hour program uses a stuctured curriculum which focuses on decision-making and life-planning skills. Participants learn a 5-step decision-making process in weekly classes, and practice their new skills in weekly 1-on-1 sessions with a trained volunteer mentor. Typically, between 50 and 90 women participate annually. Our numbers were down in 2013 due to new state and federal regulations governing volunteers at correctional facilities.  In our spring 2013 cycle, 23 inmates graduated, and 14 inmates will graduate Nov. 18, 2013.
Budget 39050
Category Crime & Legal, General/Other Criminal Justice & Corrections
Population Served Females, Adults,
Short Term Success
By the end of each 8-week cycle, 100% of the participants will graduate. 
Long term Success
Recidivism rates for women who have completed Better Decisions will be lower than for those who did not participate.
Program Success Monitored By
All inmate participants complete a written evaluation at program end.  Better Decisions has never received a negative evaluation!Graduates encourage other inmates to sign up.  Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole continues to recommend Better Decisions. 
Examples of Program Success
A recent program graduate completed a graduate program at Vanderbilt University; another graduate maintains a 4.0 average at Nashville State.
Description In response to an inmate survey, Better Decisions volunteers began a Book Club on the Main compound at the Tennessee Prison for Women in 2002. The Book Club meets for an hour once a week during the summer and winter intervals between the fall and spring core program cycles. Inmates and volunteers offer suggestions for the book list.  In summer of 2007, a second Book Club began at TPW's minimum-security Annex.   Both book groups continue to be active.
Budget 300
Category Education, General/Other Library
Population Served Offenders/Ex-Offenders, ,
CEO Comments In January 2014 we will begin our 30th year of semi-annual program cycles at the Tennessee Prison for Women. In other words, our 8-week program of classes and individual mentoring sessions has been offered 58 times since 1985. The volunteer teachers are remarkably loyal: our founder and her co-teacher participated in nearly every cycle for 2 decades, I've taught for 23 years, and our other senior teacher, for over 15 years. That's a lot of combined experience! The evaluations we receive from the inmate students are remarkably consistent over the years as well. "I now know what I want to do with my life when I leave this prison, thanks to Better Decisions." "Keep helping people change their lives." Feedback like this keeps us going!
Board Chair
Board Chair Ms. Peggy West
Company Affiliation Community Volunteer
Term Feb 2012 to Mar 2014
Email pegsulu2@comcast.net
Board Members
NameAffiliationStatus
Ms. Chastity Bradley medical editorVoting
Ms. Alice Clark Community VolunteerVoting
Mrs. Kathy Ianni Community VolunteerVoting
Mrs. Erin Keene Community VolunteerVoting
Ms. Kathy Masulis Better DecisionsNonVoting
Ms. Jennie Nunnery Business ownerVoting
Mrs. Terry Rosenblum Community VolunteerVoting
Mrs. Rhonda Scarlata Voting
Ms. Theresa Sexton Claritas CapitalVoting
Ms. Peggy West Life CoachVoting
Board Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 2
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 8
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 0
Female 10
Unspecified 0
Governance
Board Term Lengths 2
Board Term Limits 2
Board Meeting Attendance % 74%
Does the organization have written Board Selection Criteria? Yes
Does the organization have a written Conflict of Interest Policy? No
Percentage of Board Members making Monetary Contributions 100%
Percentage of Board Members making In-Kind Contributions 80%
Does the Board include Client Representation? Yes
Number of Full Board Meetings Annually 6
Standing Committees
Executive
CEO Comments Better Decisions (BD) is a women's program. The board, volunteers and staff of BD are all women who are or have been directly involved with program delivery.  This is one of our strengths.  In an effort to expand our donor base, we have made funding requests to additional churches in the community.  Given our minimal overhead and just one staff salary, we do not anticipate being severely affected by the recession. 
Executive Director/CEO
Executive Director Ms. Kathy Masulis
Term Start Aug 1997
Email kathymasulis@comcast.net
Experience Kathy has been a volunteer teacher with Better Decisions beginning since spring of 1991. She was hired as Program Director in August 1997. Kathy has a masters degree in religious education from Loyola University. She has been a local community volunteer including serving as the board president for Penuel Ridge Retreat Center.
Former CEOs
NameTerm
Ms. Sonya Robinson Feb 1995 - July 1997
Staff
Full Time Staff 0
Part Time Staff 1
Volunteers 80
Contractors 0
Retention Rate 100%
Affiliations
AffiliationYear
Center for Nonprofit Management Excellence Network1999
Hands On Network2012
Awards
Award/RecognitionOrganizationYear
Annie GoodhueTitans Quarterback Award (volunteer)2001
Candy MarkmanMary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Innovator Award2004
CEO Comments
Better Decisions continues to operate on a frugal but balanced budget.   The Board and Executive Director annually email past and present volunteers to contribute to operating expenses  through their company's United Way campaign, or by donating directly to Better Decisions.
 
 
Fiscal Year
Fiscal Year Start July 01 2013
Fiscal Year End June 30 2014
Projected Revenue $39,050.00
Projected Expenses $39,050.00
Endowment Spending Policy N/A
Endowment Spending Percentage (if selected) 0%
Detailed Financials
Expense Allocation
Fiscal Year201320122011
Program Expense$27,470$24,701$24,127
Administration Expense$3,106$10,325$11,923
Fundraising Expense$0$0$0
Payments to Affiliates$0$0$0
Total Revenue/Total Expenses0.931.171.14
Program Expense/Total Expenses73%71%67%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue0%0%0%
Assets and Liabilities
Fiscal Year201320122011
Total Assets$45,370$47,971$42,123
Current Assets$45,370$47,971$42,123
Long-Term Liabilities$0$0$0
Current Liabilities$0$0$0
Total Net Assets$45,370$47,971$42,123
Short Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201320122011
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities------
Long Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201320122011
Long-Term Liabilities/Total Assets0%0%0%
Top Funding Sources
Fiscal Year201320122011
Top Funding Source & Dollar AmountContributions, Gifts, and Grants $34,746Contributions, Gifts, and Grants $40,786Contributions, Gifts, and Grants $41,103
Second Highest Funding Source & Dollar AmountProgram Service Revenue $460Investment Income $89Investment and Interest Income $106
Third Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount -- -- --
IRS Letter of Exemption
Capital Campaign
Is the organization currently conducting a Capital Campaign for an endowment or the purchase of a major asset? No
Capital Campaign Goal $0.00
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years? No
State Charitable Solicitations Permit
TN Charitable Solicitations Registration Yes - Expires Dec 2013
Solicitations Permit
permit'12
Organization Comments
Congregational support continues to be consistent and we received our annual $8,000 contribution from the State of TN for fiscal year 2013-14.  At the same time, however, we received a letter indicating that future State funding is not guaranteed.
GivingMatters.com Financial Comments
Financial figures taken from 990EZ.
990EZ was prepared internally by nonprofit.
Any foundation or corporation gifts may be included with individual contributions as they are not separated in the 990EZ.
Comment provided by Laurel Fisher 12/6/13.
Nonprofit Better Decisions
Address 2106 19th Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37212
Primary Phone (615) 832-8327
CEO/Executive Director Ms. Kathy Masulis
Board Chair Ms. Peggy West
Board Chair Company Affiliation Community Volunteer
Year of Incorporation 1999
Former Names
DECISIONS

Related Information

Offender Reentry

Prisoners recede to a place far out-of-sight and out-of-mind for most citizens until their release. The concept of prisoner rehabilitation concerns the ability of the correctional system and other agencies to effectively reintroduce a past offender as a law-abiding, productive member of society. Tennessee released 14,735 prisoners in 2010 in need of a source of income and aid in developing a stable, sustainable lifestyle. Our state’s effort to prevent recidivism, or the relapse of an individual into criminal activity that prompts their return to prison, consists of programs designed to provide past offenders the guidance, training, and opportunities necessary to lower their chances of reoffending.

Crime Prevention

In today's climate of economic uncertainty, Middle Tennesseans may be concerned about the potential of rising crime. Fortunately, there are ways we can work together to protect ourselves and our communities from crime. Crime prevention cannot be achieved by one body alone. Rather, effective crime prevention results from a web of institutions, agencies, and daily life — including communities, families, schools, and the legal institutions of policing and criminal justice.

Gangs

In Tennessee, gang presence has been on the rise since the late 1980s and early 1990s, when gangs first made a concerted push into the state. Since 2011, police have identified at least 5,000 gang members in Davidson County, and gang-related crimes have increased by 25%. Meanwhile, cities with 50,000 or fewer inhabitants have seen gang-related crimes triple in frequency nationally since 2005.