Better Decisions
PO Box 120754
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.
CEO/Executive Director Ms. Crissy S Zitka MA-CFRE
Co-CEO/Executive Director Crissy S Zitka MA-CFRE
Board Chair Mrs. Theresa Sexton
Board Chair Company Affiliation Claritas Capital
History & Background
Year of Incorporation 1999
Former Names
Organization's type of tax exempt status 501-C3
Financial Summary
Graph: Expense Breakdown Graph - All Years
Projected Expenses $58,786.00
Projected Annual Revenue $42,500.00 (2018)
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.
Last year (2016-17), 1 in every 3 BD students was granted parole or released from prison.
Recent graduates said, “I’ve learned to think for myself more;” and, “This class was a great resource for short-term and long-term goals.” We believe in the power of women helping women make Better Decisions in a pre-release program that equips women for life.

For 2016-17, our plan was to enroll 50-70 inmates at TPW in three eight-week BD cycles. We successfully enrolled 38 students, with 33 graduating, an 87% completion rate. Program components included:  1. Holding registration sessions for inmates three times a year: COMPLETED - This was an increase from two cycles in past years. 2.Collaborating with TPW staff for training three times a year to train new volunteer: NOT COMPLETED - This was a planned increase from one training in past years, however it remained at one training in FY17. 3. Matching inmate students with volunteer mentors for the Summer, Fall and Spring sessions: COMPLETED. 4. Conducting weekly classes for 1-1/2 hours on eight Monday evenings each cycle.  COMPLETED. 5.Holding graduation ceremonies at TPW three times a year: COMPLETED - This was an increase in scheduled programming by an added 9 weeks. 

Immediate impact of our work is shown in parole success, with at least two (2) student graduates being granted parole in each of 3 cycles, our fall cycle graduating 9 paroled residents. Inmates parole hearings are held at different times for students in a class, and not all are inmates eligible for hearings annually, so individual outcomes will signal success. We plan to track parole approval rates more closely in future, as we are told the Parole Board weighs BD participation. 
Goals for 2017-18:
  1. Secure funding to allow capacity-building to commence, in an effort to expand our scope to serve new populations. 
  2. Building upon a fall 2017 curriculum review, convene a committee to conduct a curriculum revision and update.
  3. Building on a spring 2017 revision, conduct pre & post course evaluations & capture/gauge impact among graduates.
1. Branding support and awareness-building campaigns
2. CRM and other database tools (and technical support) 
3. Research assistance (follow-up and longitudinal analysis of graduates)
4. Assistance with editing and new graphics for curriculum revision
5. Resources for technological enhancements to expand training and development for volunteers
Other ways to donate, support, or volunteer
We gratefully accept donations in any amount!  Two options are available:  1) Donate by credit card on or 2) Mail a check to Better Decisions, P.O. Box 120754, Nashville, TN 37212.
We welcome volunteer interest all year and train new volunteers in the fall. For more information, please see our website
Service Categories
Primary Organization Category Education / Adult Education
Secondary Organization Category Crime & Legal - Related / Inmate Support
Tertiary Organization Category Crime & Legal - Related / Crime prevention
Areas of Service
Areas Served
TN - Davidson

The Tennessee Prison for Women (TPW) in Nashville is one of  3 state prisons for females in Tennessee (the others are in Memphis and in Bledsoe County).  TPW is located in north Nashville, in the Bordeaux area, near the intersection of Briley Parkway and Ashland City Highway.

CEO Statement Our organization is singularly focused on helping women make better decisions.
Description Better Decisions provides four (4) courses in two, concurrent 9-week (2 month) academic terms of instructional programming annually. The program uses a structured 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 30 and 50 women inmates (students) participate annually, with an equal number of volunteers (mentors) plus classroom teachers - totaling around 70-115 participants altogether. Again, while there are 2 terms annually, two courses are taught and run simultaneously at different locations in TN Prison for Women, hence 4 courses total.  
Budget 39050
Category Crime & Legal, General/Other Inmate Support
Population Served Females, Offenders/Ex-Offenders, Adults
Short Term Success
By the end of each 8-week cycle, 100% of the participants will graduate. We also hope to build on the recent statistic that 1 in 3 student participants is granted parole or release from prison, improving the chances of our students' re-entry into TN society.
Long term Success
Recidivism rates for women who have completed Better Decisions will be lower than for those who did not participate. When measured in pre and post-course surveys, students will show positive personal growth. Findings will support the program's original 1997 study which affirmed that both Self Esteem and Locus of Control scores of participants significantly increased upon course completion, as compared to a similar cohort of female offenders who did not take the course.
Program Success Monitored By
All inmate participants complete both a pre & post student evaluation during their participation, which will show evidence of immediate skills transfer.  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 Better Decisions has now provided semi-annual program cycles at the Tennessee Prison for Women for more than 30 years. In other words, our 9-week program of classes and individual mentoring sessions has been offered over 60 times since 1985. Our dedicated volunteer teachers and mentors come from varied backgrounds, some have been serving women at TPW for many years but we are thrilled to continuously gain new talented volunteers. 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 Mrs. Theresa Sexton
Company Affiliation Claritas Capital
Term Aug 2015 to Dec 2018
Board Members
Ms. Chastity Bradley medical editorVoting
Ms. Caitlin Craddock Vanderbilt UniversityVoting
Mrs. Erin Keene Community VolunteerVoting
Ms. Jennie Nunnery Business ownerVoting
Ms. Cassandra Riedy Belmont UniversityVoting
Ms. Theresa Sexton Claritas CapitalVoting
Ms. Erika Tennant Premise HealthVoting
Mrs. Lisa Waddle Athlon Media GroupVoting
Board Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 2
Asian American/Pacific Islander 1
Caucasian 5
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 0
Female 8
Unspecified 0
Board Term Lengths 4
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 100%
Does the Board include Client Representation? Yes
Number of Full Board Meetings Annually 6
Standing Committees
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. Given our minimal overhead and just one part-time staff salary, we have not had to decrease our services even in difficult economic times. 
Executive Director/CEO
Executive Director Ms. Crissy S Zitka MA-CFRE
Term Start May 2017

Executive Director, Crissy Zitka, brings more than twenty (20) years of not-for-profit executive, management, fundraising and programmatic experience to Better Decisions. The Board Members, who provide service in the field, time as board members, and financial resources, have, in aggregate, provided over 50 years of service to the organization.

Co-CEO Crissy S Zitka MA-CFRE
Term Start May 2017
Former CEOs
Rachel Kinney Jan 2016 - Dec 2016
Kathy Masulis Jan 1991 - Dec 2015
Full Time Staff 0
Part Time Staff 1
Volunteers 60
Contractors 0
Retention Rate 0%
Plans & Policies
Does the organization have a documented Fundraising Plan? Yes
Does the organization have an approved Strategic Plan? Under Development
Number of years Strategic Plan Considers N/A
In case of a change in leadership, is a Management Succession plan in place? No
Does the organization have a Policies and Procedures Plan? No
Does the organization have a Nondiscrimination Policy? Yes
Center for Nonprofit Management Excellence Network1999
Hands On Network2012
Annie GoodhueTitans Quarterback Award (volunteer)2001
Candy MarkmanMary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Innovator Award2004
Senior Staff
Title Executive Director
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 2017
Fiscal Year End June 30 2018
Projected Revenue $42,500.00
Projected Expenses $58,786.00
Endowment Spending Policy N/A
Endowment Spending Percentage (if selected) 0%
Detailed Financials
Expense Allocation
Fiscal Year201720162015
Program Expense$0$34,970$34,970
Administration Expense$0$3,413$1,225
Fundraising Expense$0$0$0
Payments to Affiliates--$0$0
Total Revenue/Total Expenses--1.271.45
Program Expense/Total Expenses--91%97%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue--0%0%
Assets and Liabilities
Fiscal Year201720162015
Total Assets$0$64,330$53,888
Current Assets$0$64,330$53,888
Long-Term Liabilities$0$0$0
Current Liabilities$0$0$0
Total Net Assets$0$64,330$53,888
Short Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201720162015
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities------
Long Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201720162015
Long-Term Liabilities/Total Assets--0%0%
Top Funding Sources
Fiscal Year201720162015
Top Funding Source & Dollar Amount --Contributions, Gifts and Grants $40,825Contributions, Gifts & Grants $44,350
Second Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount --Program Revenue $8,000Program Services $8,000
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 2018
Solicitations Permit
Approval Letter
Organization Comments
We receive a variety of support from the Greater Nashville Community, which has been steadfast since our inception. Congregational support for our prison outreach work continues to be strong, evidenced by ecumenical support of six key  churches, and we received an $8,000 program commitment from TN Dept. of Corrections again this fiscal year. Our support from Individuals has grown this past year, with help from The Big Payback campaign, year-end appeals, and gifts from our volunteers including a large private gift of $7,500 and 100% Board Giving of more than $10,000 from 8 women. 
We plan to grow our budget to support revision and modernization of our proprietary curriculum and training, increase programmatic evaluation, and create new sources of support for capacity-building that will allow us to chart a future to reach more women in a variety of settings with our educational offerings and mentoring support. Financial Comments
In 2014, this organization filed a 990-N form with the IRS, which does not provide specific financial information. Most small tax-exempt organizations whose annual gross receipts are normally $50,000 or less ($25,000 for tax years ending after December 31, 2007 and before December 31, 2010) are required to electronically submit Form 990-N, also known as the e-Postcard, unless they choose to file a complete Form 990 or Form 990-EZ instead.
Prior year financial figures and 2015 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.
In 2017, financials were taken from the 990N. See note about 990N above.
Comment provided by Nicole Rose 02/01/2018.
Nonprofit Better Decisions
Address PO Box 120754
Nashville, TN 37212
Primary Phone (615) 832-8327
CEO/Executive Director Ms. Crissy S Zitka MA-CFRE
Board Chair Mrs. Theresa Sexton
Board Chair Company Affiliation Claritas Capital
Year of Incorporation 1999
Former Names

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