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.


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.