Urban Alliance Foundation

Urban Alliance Foundation

CONSULTING AREA: Market study and strategic analysis

Capacity Partners was invaluable in helping us to assess our strategic position relative to our financial plans — and in setting us on the right path to revise our strategic vision.

– Mary Menell Zients, Board Chair and Founder, Urban Alliance Foundation

Background

Today, the Urban Alliance Foundation – which helps under-resourced students develop economic self-sufficiency — is a well-known nonprofit organization that has served more than 10,000 youth in the District of Columbia, Baltimore and Chicago. However, when its founder and Board of Directors turned to Capacity Partners for assistance back in 2004, it was still an emerging nonprofit, and they wanted to dramatically expand its reach. They needed an experienced consulting partner to assess and recommend fundraising and growth strategies.

Key Challenges

The organization had a solid base of foundation funders and large individual donors, but had reached a juncture in its evolution where it needed a more focused strategy for steady, sustainable growth.

Services Provided

Capacity Partners recommended an approach to strategic planning built around the concepts of “vision, visibility, and validation” and conducted in-depth research on fundraising options. We gave the Board essential insight into the organization’s fundraising potential and how rapidly it could expand.

Results

Capacity Partners recommended that the Urban Alliance Foundation clarify its vision, heighten its visibility, and validate its program success. Based on our guidance, the Board decided to undertake a yearlong capacity-building process, which provided a foundation for Urban Alliance’s future success.


Friends Community School

Friends Community School

CONSULTING AREA: Strategic planning counsel, Capital campaign counsel, and Software selection

We felt daunted by the idea of raising 50 times our annual giving fund in our first capital campaign, but Capacity Partners’ expertise and leadership empowered our volunteers to exceed the fundraising goal.

– Mary Kate O’Neill, Grounding Our Future Campaign Chair, Friends Community School

Background

This small, independent Quaker school purchased a property on which it planned to build a state-of-the-art green building.

Key Challenges

Faced with total construction costs of $6.8 million, the school needed to conduct a multi-million dollar capital campaign, yet its history of annual giving campaigns had never exceeded $35,000.

Services Provided

Capacity Partners performed a feasibility study, developed a comprehensive campaign strategy, wrote the case for support, conducted extensive prospect research, and provided on-going support.

Results

Working with a committed donor, we developed a winning proposal for a 3 to 1 challenge grant that motivated the entire community to raise most of the campaign goal – nearly $3 million – in just six months.


Jane Goodall Institute

Jane Goodall Institute

CONSULTING AREA: Electronic database screening analysis and Major gift prospect identification

In the infancy of our campaign, Capacity Partners provided analysis and strategic direction. They became part of our team and gave us the confidence to move forward with our ambitious goals.

– Lindsay Hance Kosnik, Former VP, Jane Goodall Institute

Background

This renowned international nonprofit hired Capacity Partners to evaluate its capacity for launching a legacy campaign to fulfill the vision of its charismatic leader, Jane Goodall.

Key Challenges

Founded in 1977 by primatologist Jane Goodall, the Institute had excellent name recognition and many loyal supporters. However, as the organization prepared to celebrate its 30th anniversary, its development program was overly focused on smaller donations solicited via direct marketing, We needed to find a way to significantly expand the fundraising reach of this major educational/scientific nonprofit so that it could continue to grow and pursue its mission.

Services Provided

Working with two vendors of data-mining services, Capacity Partners designed and implemented an exhaustive assessment of the giving capacity of supporters. The resulting prospect analysis included evaluating 100,000+ potential donors in order to identify major gift opportunities. The process pinpointed the incredible possibilities of many potential high-level donors who already supported Goodall’s work, but who had not been cultivated for larger gifts.

Results

Capacity Partners prepared the Institute for high-end donor cultivation, putting a major gift program at the top of its agenda and creating a framework for an ambitious campaign based on intense cultivation of the 2,000 key donors identified through the prospect analysis as having very high major gifts potential.


Many Voices

Many Voices

CONSULTING AREA: Organizational strategic planning & Fundraising strategy

Mary Robinson’s brilliant guidance carried us to an unexpected and exciting outcome, and we now have much greater clarity about where we are headed and how to move forward.

– Ann Thompson Cook, Co-Director, Many Voices

Background

Many Voices was initially founded to create a safe space for Protestant clergy and congregations to learn how to welcome gay and transgender persons. As an early stage start-up, Many Voices needed an organizational strategic plan, and they decided to work with Capacity Partners because of Mary Robinson’s proven experience in both organizational strategy and fund development.

Key Challenges

Creating a strategic plan was especially challenging for Many Voices due to the breadth of its initial mission statement and the absence of a board of directors. Furthermore, the plan needed to include a strong focus on financial sustainability. In addition, the founder – a visionary activist and experienced nonprofit leader – wanted input on the plan from nationally recognized thought leaders. While these individuals knew the founder, they were not familiar with Many Voices.

Services Provided

Over the course of a year, Capacity Partners worked closely with the founder, team members, and an assembly of industry experts to forge a strategic plan. Staff created initial drafts of the plan’s core components, and then a retreat was held in Washington, DC, with industry experts from across the country. Working groups were then established to tackle various portions of the plan. After guiding the strategic planning process, Mary Robinson turned to the creation of a development strategy, an effort that included interviewing potential major donors, stakeholders, and professionals working in similar spaces. Capacity Partners then recommended a candidate for the position of director of development who was subsequently hired to implement the fundraising strategy.

Results

The strategic planning process was transformational for Many Voices. The three most important outcomes were: 1) a powerful revision of the mission to focus directly upon creating a national movement for gay and transgender justice from within the Black church; 2) the emergence of an exceptional staff person who was appointed co-director with the founder; 3) the creation of a strategic plan to use with funders and potential board members — and as an internal launch pad for more detailed operational planning.


Chesapeake Montessori School

Chesapeake Montessori School

CONSULTING AREA: Board governance training & Strategic planning

Capacity Partners provided insightful guidance that drew on extensive experience working with schools — but that also reflected a clear understanding of our school’s unique strengths and challenges.

– Joanna Tobin, Board of Trustees, Chesapeake Montessori School

Background

It was time for Chesapeake Montessori School in Annapolis, Maryland, to develop a new five-year strategic plan, and the Board of Trustees needed a consultant to provide expert guidance and assistance. They selected Capacity Partners because of Mary Robinson’s experience with other small schools.

Key Challenges

The Board of Trustees at CMS is comprised of parent volunteers. As the Board approached the strategic planning process, they brought varying levels of experience with governance and planning to the table – and at the time, several were first-time Board members. They needed a “third voice”: an expert who could meet them where they were, individually and as a group, and guide them through the planning process and several learning curves.

Services Provided

We worked closely with CMS over a two-year period. To lay the groundwork for a successful strategic planning process, we started by conducting a training session for the Board that provided an overview of governance, including the roles of the Board, individual trustee and head of school; effective decision-making processes; committee work and optimal structure; and communication intra-Board and between Board and parents. Several months later, Mary Robinson facilitated a full-day long-range planning retreat for the Board and representative staff and then advised the school’s leadership to bring together planning groups for different aspects of the plan. Toward the end of the planning process, she led a second Board training focused on development, including strategies for growing annual giving.

Results

Capacity Partner training sessions in governance and fundraising positioned the Board to create a strong blueprint for the future and helped them develop tools and techniques to execute that plan. In 2012, as the school celebrated its 35th anniversary, the Board completed a new five-year strategic plan, which is now being implemented. The school’s adolescent program is well on its way, and CMS is reaching out in concrete ways to grow the impact of the school and the Montessori philosophy on the broader community.


National Bonsai Foundation

National Bonsai Foundation

CONSULTING AREA: Feasibility study & Capital campaign management

The Capacity Partners team is always very responsive and hands-on. They conducted a feasibility study that was incredibly helpful to our Board as we decided how to move forward, and now they are helping insure the success of our fundraising campaign for the Japanese Pavilion.

– Johann F. Klodzen, Executive Director, National Bonsai Foundation

Background

The National Bonsai Foundation sustains the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the U. S. National Arboretum. The Japanese Pavilion, which was built in 1976, was in dire need of renovation and improvements. NBF needed a feasibility study to help its Board decide how to move forward on an ambitious fundraising campaign for the Pavilion. NBF engaged Capacity Partners, based on a recommendation from one of its Board members, to conduct a feasibility study.

Key Challenges

In order to restore the Japanese Pavilion, NBF would have to raise more money than it ever had before.

Services Provided

Capacity Partners conducted a feasibility study that allowed the NBF Board to gain a better understanding of the organization’s strengths and weaknesses. When NBF leadership decided to moved forward on a campaign for the Japanese Pavilion, Capacity Partners then developed a detailed fundraising plan and Julie Crudele joined the project team as campaign manager, working closely with NBF to execute the plan.

Results

The feasibility study allowed NBF to determine the best path forward at a critical juncture. In 2012, as NBF celebrated it 30th anniversary, it launched the Campaign for the Japanese Pavilion: A Gift Renewed. A philanthropic member of the Board stepped forward to make a promised gift of $1.5 million toward the ambitious $2 million campaign total, and the organization is now working toward a $500,000 fundraising goal, with ongoing campaign management by Capacity Partners.


Latin American Youth Center

Latin American Youth Center

CONSULTING AREA: Strategic Planning

Working with Capacity Partners was a really good decision. Mary Robinson helped us deliver a new strategic plan on a tight timeline, but the process was never superficial or formulaic. She pushed us to be very specific and intentional, and she pulled out underlying themes we might have missed.

– Lori Kaplan, President & CEO, Latin American Youth Center

Background

Latin American Youth Center is a large, complex nonprofit with multiple locations across the DC metro area. The organization works with a diverse population of youth to help them achieve a successful transition to adulthood. It was time for LAYC leadership and staff, who had used large strategy consulting firms to develop two previous strategic plans, to create a new strategic plan. Under the guidance of an experienced internal chief strategy officer, they began to develop the new plan in-house. When they realized they needed an outside perspective and assistance completing the plan, they engaged Capacity Partners.

Key Challenges

Although LAYC had extensive experience with strategic planning, the staff time required to work on a plan in addition to regular work duties made it difficult to deliver a full-fledged plan on a tight timeline. In addition, LAYC is an established nonprofit with a strong track record of success. Being in a position of relative strength and stability can make it more difficult for nonprofit leaders to dig deep and re-examine assumptions.

Services Provided

Over the course of five months, Mary Robinson worked closely with LAYC’s chief strategy officer and staff to deliver the new plan. To supplement the excellent work that had already been completed, Mary conducted three retreats to elicit and address key factors influencing the organization’s future growth strategy. Working committees were formed to flesh out the strategies and objectives for each strategic goal, and a board-staff leadership team was created to coordinate the planning from all organizational perspectives.

Results

In addition to providing bandwidth to assist the chief strategy officer in completing the plan in a timely manner, Capacity Partners was able to offer new insights and pull out some themes that might have been missed internally, including issues related to internal alignment and the importance of relationship building to programmatic success. The result was a dynamic, forward-looking plan that was approved by LAYC’s Board of Directors in early 2013 and is now being implemented.


Montgomery Coalition for Adult English Literacy

Montgomery Coalition for Adult English Literacy

CONSULTING AREA: Strategic Planning

Mary and Sara put into place a comprehensive schedule and worked closely with staff and board members. They were excellent at listening to different points of view and incorporating them into the process. It is hard to describe the innate ability that both Mary and Sara have to facilitate an inclusive discussion, handle differing points of view, and synthesize comments into actionable steps. I think the entire board felt included and able to share their opinions.

– Kathy Stevens, Executive Director, MCAEL

Background

The Montgomery Coalition for Adult English Literacy strengthens the countywide adult English literacy network to support a thriving community and effective workforce. MCAEL worked with Capacity Partners for six months to develop the strategic plan.

Key Challenges

MCAEL needed to both confirm their core work and values and to set goals that put their organization on a growth trajectory.

Services Provided

Mary Robinson and Sara Watkins facilitated the process which was carefully constructed to balance board and staff time. The process created space to include historical data, best practices, and in depth discussions among board members. Also, since the coalition model is integral to the work that MCAEL does, the planning process involved input from stakeholders and two advisory groups and included a survey to get feedback from internal and external stakeholders to guide the Board’s planning.

Results

They now have a solid strategic plan they can share with funders and constituents that defines their organization and shows what they plan to do. The strategic plan is the foundation for all of their annual planning.


Foundation For Jewish Studies

Foundation For Jewish Studies

CONSULTING AREA: Board Development

Sara Watkins is knowledgeable, collaborative, and creative. She is both grounded and inspirational, bringing a wealth of knowledge to the process. Sara does not use boilerplate; instead she tailors her work to meet the particular needs of an organization. She gave us a process that’s in progress to improve the effectiveness of our board of directors.

– Elaine Amir, President, Foundation for Jewish Studies

Background

The Foundation for Jewish Studies is the largest independent provider of Jewish adult education in the Greater Washington area, offering each year more than fifty different occasions to meet with, discuss, and learn from top educators. The Foundation seeks to stimulate engagement with Jewish texts, promote discussion about Jewish culture, life, history, literature and philosophy, and is working to ensure the longevity of the Jewish faith and tradition.

The Foundation for Jewish Studies enrolled in a Sustainable Board Workshop taught by Sara Watkins at the Nonprofit Village, seeking advice on how to evaluate and set new direction for its board of directors.

Key Challenges

Thirty years old, the Foundation needed help learning best practices for board development and recruitment to implement what they had learned.

Services Provided

Capacity Partners met with board and staff members to learn more about the strengths and needs of the organization. Capacity Partners then helped the board develop a self-evaluation survey which was completed by all board members. The survey results were used as the basis for a board retreat in March 2015. During the retreat, board members discussed the size of the board, committee structure, orientation for new members, attracting and recruiting strategies, and evaluation of board effectiveness.

Results

At the conclusion of the self-evaluation, board members reassessed their individual contributions to the board and evaluated their effectiveness as board members. As a result of the retreat, board members decided to recruit potential new members to serve on committees according to the areas of expertise needed by the Foundation. Through service on a committee, both the board and the new committee members could determine if moving onto the full board would be mutually advantageous. In addition to specific expertise, the Foundation is looking for committee members who are passionate about the Foundation’s mission and energized to advance and support it.