What Do Projects Need In 2015?

The nonprofit world is a dynamic space, and the services that fiscal sponsors offered a decade ago are not sufficient in 2015. Community Initiatives serves 95 projects, making us well positioned to observe challenges and solutions common to our network. It has become clear to us that projects would benefit from additional support in two high impact areas: strategic planning and social media.

Strategic Planning Consultations

Nonprofits and projects work tirelessly to raise funds, retain staff, and serve the community. Rarely do leaders have the time to take a step back and think about strategic planning.  But a strategic plan can help projects to see the future they are trying to create by ensuring resources align with the business model, reinforce what’s working and address what’s not, adapt to new realities, and stage growth to reach goals. Project leaders are usually founders with all of the entrepreneurial spirit it takes to get an idea off the ground, but often without the tools to not just grow but build an organization.  Advisory Committees don’t always understand their role and how they can support the project.  While fundraising has become increasingly competitive, strategic planning can send reassuring signals to funders about the organization’s effectiveness, especially fiscally sponsored projects, which tend to be more modestly sized and resourced.

Our CEO, Theresa Fay-Bustillos along with Gayle, Andrea, Amanda or Susan have been sitting down with projects to conduct strategic planning sessions. During this time, project leaders and advisors have the opportunity to engage in a tailored conversation about the future direction of their project. Theresa is a former strategic planning consultant with a wealth of non-profit and for-profit strategic planning and business experience.  She and the Specialist work with project leadership to set the agenda, prepare, and decide who should participate.  Theresa facilitates the sessions to ensure everyone participates and goals are met.  The initial session is usually scheduled for three hours and follow-up sessions are scheduled as necessary.  After the session, Theresa and the Specialist summarize the issues, findings, agreements and next steps and send the summary to each participant.

Theresa and Andrea recently met with the leadership and Advisory Committee of One Day at A Time (ODAT) to create a plan to expand services and grow the organization.  During this conversation, Johnny Rodriguez, ODAT’s Executive Director and founder, realized that in order for the organization to grow change was necessary.  He had to do some soul searching about his role, develop key staff and delegate more of the youth work, and formalize processes and structure.  Identifying what needed to happen, even though it was not what was anticipated, ended-up being liberating.   The ODAT team has been working hard on making change, particularly Johnny, and it’s not yet done, but they are proud to announce an exciting expansion to Ireland!

As Johnny recently said, “Our students will have an international experience where they gain an entirely different perspective on global conflicts and diversity and come home and share that experience with our community. The conflicts we encounter are so different than those around the world, and for these kids to gain a global perspective is empowering and transformational.”

Social Strategy Consultations

Social media has become as important to the nonprofit sector as HR and finance. Neglecting to develop a comprehensive social strategy means projects are limiting their possible impact. Lauren Gibbs, our Social Communications Manager has provided social strategy consultations to approximately 20 percent of Community Initiatives’ projects already this year. During a social strategy consultation, Lauren assesses projects’ performance on their existing social channels, and offers follow up calls to coach key team members on their progress and questions.  This consultation has the biggest impact when it is conducted as a series of calls over several months—creating accountability for learning and a system of continuous improvement.

Project leaders rarely have the expertise necessary to support their staff in executing their message in social media. Lauren provided an in-person consultation to Headstand on how they can make more visuals to expand their reach on Facebook. At that meeting, the team realized that they were not using their resources strategically. In the months since, Lauren has had regular calls with their staff to help fine-tune their social strategy for optimal impact. Their staff has been trained on the best practices in Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. In an effort to sustain their new momentum, Lauren continues to check in with their staff every 4 weeks.

Lauren recently helped North Street Collective discover that their Facebook page was reaching almost no individuals in their target audience of young people aged 18-25. Lauren coached them through the basics of Instagram—the prime platform for millennials. Armed with essential instructions of best practices, North Street Collective hit the ground running with their Instagram account. Lauren will continue to work with North Street Collective regularly to ensure they are maintaining social media momentum to connect with interested artists and community members in the rural area of Willits, California.


Your peers in our network already benefit from these new services. Contact your Program Specialist if you would like to schedule either of these services. We are here to serve you everyday as you serve our community everyday.

Posted June 1, 2015 in General

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