Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA)
CHALLENGE: The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) is membership organization with 20 chapters internationally. Their mission is to advance diversity in newsrooms, ensuring fair and accurate coverage of communities of color. AAJA retained Envision Consulting to conduct an assessment and provide recommendations for improving the financial sustainability and impact of their signature Executive Leadership Program (ELP), which has a 20-year track record of training and developing media industry professionals.
SOLUTION: Envision Consulting developed a comprehensive assessment, which included producing an online survey for program alumni to gather insights about value proposition and perceived impact, challenges associated with participation in the program, willingness to pay, pricing model, and feedback on maximizing program value. We conducted extensive interviews with program alumni, current and potential funders, potential program participants, as well as current and potential employers that sponsor program participants – and compiled a robust report on value and impact of the program, pricing and ways to increase relevance for the industry. We also conducted a competitors analysis to benchmark value proposition, pricing, revenue models and marketing.
OUTCOMES: Our deliverable to AAJA was an assessment report, recommendations and timeline, as well as financial modeling that outlined a potential sustainable path forward for the program. In addition to the strategic benefit of the project, the organization reported that stakeholders appreciated the opportunity to provide input on the future direction of the program. Feedback and findings from the assessment are also being used to inform the future direction and marketing of the program.
CHALLENGE: REDF is a nonprofit venture philanthropy organization founded in 1997 that provides funding, technical assistance and overall support to social enterprises that employ people facing barriers to work. As part of REDF’s national portfolio expansion in 2016, the organization was ramping up its national network of social enterprises (SE4Jobs) and launching its first regional chapter in Southern California (SE4Jobs:LA) to organize, support and advocate for social enterprises. REDF faced a number of communications challenges, including a general lack of understanding of the term “social enterprise,” multiple layers of branding (REDF, SE4Jobs, SE4Jobs:LA) and a need to engage with new stakeholders in the business and social impact communities.SOLUTION: Suzanne Elliott identified the need for a targeted, audience-specific approach to achieve REDF’s communications goals for SE4Jobs:LA and create a strong foundation for the future growth of the network at the local, regional and national levels. We conducted extensive and multi-faceted research as a baseline for our recommendations, including:
- One-on-one interviews with stakeholders representing social enterprises, business, government, funders and nonprofit partners in Southern California
- Analysis of recent media coverage of social enterprise and REDF in Los Angeles
- Benchmarking of communications efforts of initiatives similar in scope and goals
OUTCOMES: Specific messages developed by Suzanne to define “social enterprise” are now being used not only by the SE4Jobs:LA network, but across REDF’s general communications. The message platform is actively in use at SE4Jobs events (national and Southern California), in stakeholder meetings and with media – and the response thus far has been extremely positive. The marketing and communications plan is now moving into implementation, and results will be monitored on an ongoing basis.
“Working with Suzanne was delightful, and they were very responsive and adaptive to client needs,” said Ashley Cordero, Initiatives Manager of REDF. “They provided a plan that was both strategic and tactical, understanding how to deliver a product that reflected the client’s resource capabilities.”
Dress for Success Worldwide-West
CHALLENGE: Dress for Success’ regional office in Los Angeles was struggling to gain significant prominence and sustainable funding after four years of operations. The hard-working and talented staff saw their efforts plateauing and needed to figure out how to get to the next level of growth.
SOLUTION: The West Coast office needed West Coast leadership! Because it operates under the umbrella of Dress for Success Worldwide in New York, Dress for Success Worldwide-West doesn’t have a separate Board of Directors with fiduciary responsibilities. But it needed connectors, door openers, influencers and friends on the ground in Los Angeles to help realize its strategic goals.
Suzanne Elliott developed a charter for the West Coast Advisory Council that outlined the purpose, roles and responsibilities, and guidelines for membership. Then we recruited 15 senior executive women from a range of industries (entertainment, PR/marketing, law, finance, etc.) who were passionate about the Dress for Success mission and excited to be ambassadors for the organization in Los Angeles and beyond. Some of the new Advisory Council members were existing Dress for Success volunteers or donors, some were recommended by early Advisory Council members, and others were completely new to the organization. Suzanne also led on-boarding for new Advisory Council members and initial group meetings.
OUTCOMES: Six months after the first Advisory Council meeting, the group has become a wealth of resources, connections and outreach. The early accomplishments of the Advisory Council include:
- Offered strategic insights on programs, real estate, marketing and PR
- Helped double attendance and revenue at the organization’s annual Empower Breakfast
- Provided graphic design services on a pro bono basis
- Connected Dress for Success to over 30 new corporate contacts
- Introduced junior colleagues to Dress for Success’ young professionals group
- Represented Dress for Success as speakers at industry and community events
- Assumed leadership roles for upcoming fundraising events
“The Advisory Council is the cornerstone for our continued growth and success in Los Angeles,” said Joi Gordon, CEO of Dress for Success Worldwide. “Suzanne helped to bring together the right people and give them the structure, inspiration and encouragement to make things happen.”
The Pablove Foundation
CHALLENGE: As a new and growing organization, The Pablove Foundation recognized their need for an executive team member who could see the big picture across the development and marketing departments. The organization also needed someone who could promote a culture of high performance and provide feedback, support and training to develop staff.
SOLUTION: After assessing the organization’s structure and needs, Envision Consulting helped The Pablove Foundation create the Vice President of Development and Communications position, which would focus on leading the organization’s fundraising and communications efforts to further achieve its mission. Additionally, this position would be charged with creating and refining a strategic communications and development plan.
OUTCOMES: From candidate recommendations based on Envision Consulting’s sourcing and recruiting, The Pablove Foundation hired Bart Verry as Vice President of Development and Communications. Bart has been in the development field for 17 years in Southern California, having worked for a variety of organizations such as Global Green USA, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Los Angeles LGBT Center, and AIDS Project Los Angeles. Bart’s experience brings a new level of sophistication to Pablove, particularly with inter-departmental stewardship.
School District 286: Brooklyn Center Community Schools
CHALLENGE: Students, families, residents, businesses, churches, and city officials were facing a growing set of issues -- academically, health outcomes, and enrichment opportunities. Graduation rates were at an all-time low, juvenile crime was on the rise, and teen-pregnancies were the highest in the state. Tensions were mounting between long-time residents and the newer immigrant communities. Solutions and resources existed, but there lacked a coordinated strategy for meeting the needs of children and families.
SOLUTION: Julie Ha Truong was brought in as a strategic consultant to lead a feasibility study and implementation strategy. It was found there were a multitude of issues and solutions that many families did not know how to navigate. Through interviews with key thought leaders and representatives, it was determined that a large-scale, coordinated community effort would be essential to raising the academic, health, and wellness outcomes of students, families, and the community. Julie worked closely with the Superintendent of schools, engaging city officials, nonprofit, and community leaders to build systems, influence policy, solicit and manage funding, tracked and reported outcomes. As a result, Brooklyn Center Community Schools, a Collective Impact effort was born and successfully implemented.
OUTCOMES: Services and families were connected and infrastructure was built to increase capacity to address identified pressing needs. The initiative grew to a 100+ partnership effort, which include the building of new health centers, family resource rooms, a recreation center, a childcare center, as well as the coordination and evolution of many existing programs. The project snowballed with funders, partners, educators, students, and families motivated to contribute. Graduation rates rose by 14% in just a few years. The police department attributed significant reductions in juvenile crime to afterschool programming. Recent reports from third-party educational and research institutions rave about the initiative’s success and tout it as a national model. The State legislature has now allocated funding to bring Community Schools to more schools across the state.View media coverage.
Dubnoff Center for Child Development
CHALLENGE: In February 2011, the Dubnoff Center for Child Development projected a $400,000 loss for the fiscal year due to a reliance on government contracts and falling enrollments in the Day School. An independent financial audit confirmed this projection and further estimated significant cash shortfalls within months that threatened to halt agency operations and programs.
Immediate actions were taken, including administrative pay cuts and furloughs. However, projections remained weak and the agency was forced to draw down the entire line of credit ($150,000) to keep programs running.
Envision Consulting was contracted directly by the Board of Directors to perform a two-week analysis on the revenues, fundraising and internal operations of the Dubnoff Center to ascertain both the causes for the financial situation and to make recommendations to avoid possibly agency closure.
SOLUTION: Envision Consulting spent a full day at the Center learning background information, touring facilities and interviewing the CEO/President and other key staff. We also analyzed documents and data to fully understand the agency’s past and current situation.
We proposed four viable, strategic options to address the Dubnoff Center’s financial hardships:
- Agency acquisition/merger
- Partial agency closure
- Community center transformation
- Programming growth with focus on autism
We also proposed the following initiatives to strengthen the agency’s operations:
- Increasing volunteer driven projects
- Gaining earned income through facility leasing
- Creating compelling programming to attract new donors
- Outsourcing certain operational functions
- Introducing community engaging events for agency awareness
OUTCOMES: Following recommendations by Envision Consulting, the Board of Directors opted to pursue acquisition and merger partnerships while engaging Envision to act as Interim CEO.
During the 15 months of interim engagement, we helped the agency achieve:
- A successful merger and acquisition
- Reduction in expenses (22% administration and 13% overall)
- Beautification and enhancement of facility for community use through significant repairs and equipment additions
- New funding from grants, direct mail campaign and small fundraising event yielding more than $125,000 and an additional $75,000 from facility rental contracts
LeeAnn Havner, Chair of Governance Committee, Hillsides“It was a pleasure working with Envision. Suzanne Elliott and Julie Truong helped to facilitate our retreat for the Hillsides Board of Directors. They are very thoughtful in their approach, well organized and responsive to requests. The planning process was very thorough and the execution was organized and impactful. They provided us with a timely follow up report summarizing action steps identified by our board. I highly recommend working with Envision.”
Helen Davidov, President of Board of Directors, National Council of Jewish Women | Los Angeles“Hiring a new Executive Director was a daunting task for us. We didn’t know where to begin or what questions to ask. Envision helped us through every step of the process. It was such a relief for us! The best part was that we completely trust their team to represent and understand NCJW|LA. Now we turn to Envision for our Board retreats, as well as leadership development for our Board and Executive Director.”
Alan Greenlee, Executive Director, Southern California Association of Non Profit Housing (SCANPH)“Envision Consulting became a trusted partner by quickly understanding our mission and adeptly assessing our organization’s position. Envision provided SCANPH a clear roadmap for how to advance our strategic objectives and we had concrete steps to implement a blueprint that was developed collaboratively while being very mindful of our resources and top priorities. We appreciated the professionalism, dedication, and diplomacy of the organization and Suzanne Elliott. SCANPH highly recommends their services and expertise in delivering organizational evaluation and strategy.”
Erica Fisher and Melanie Neumann, Co-Founders. PRESENT NOW“As a small and growing non-profit, Envision Consulting was instrumental in strategizing with us to build and strengthen our Board of Directors. Suzanne guided us through the process of recruitment, interviewing and Board training. PRESENT NOW is a stronger more focused organization due to our work with Envision.”
Lori Warren, Director of Marketing & Communications, REDF“I’ve been working in nonprofit marketing and communications for plenty of years, and I’ve worked with a lot of consultants. Throughout our engagement with Suzanne, I was continuously impressed by their strategic thinking, creativity, thoroughness, flexibility, and understanding of our sector. They delivered a product that was brilliantly informed immediately usable. On a scale from 1 to 10, Suzanne is an 11.”
Javier LaFianza, CEO, Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership“Suzanne has simply been invaluable to me and HOBY. Her impact on HOBY is felt on daily basis. Through her help and leadership, we built a successful Advancement Team that is greatly strengthening HOBY through on-going fundraising, contact development and strategic initiatives. None of this would have been possible without Suzanne’s help. Suzanne is always pro-active, creative and professional, delivering superior results in every project. I’ve worked with many consultants over the last 25 years, but Suzanne stands out among them all. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”
Lisa Doromal, CEO, Dress for Success Phoenix“We had several new and enthusiastic board members at Dress for Success Phoenix with great ideas, but no clear strategy. Suzanne was able to provide leadership and guidance to help our organization for the next three years. Suzanne was facilitated a two-day board retreat and provided clear and tangible goals along with providing ‘post’ support to ensure that goals are met. Suzanne has been so instrumental to help our organization plan and execute.”
Dora Edney, Director of Development and Public Relations, Baldy View Regional Occupational Program“We made the right decision when hiring Suzanne for our professional development marketing meeting. Suzanne Elliott's presentations were organized, engaging and impactful. She took the time to listen to challenges, answer questions and guide the group with the development of messaging statements with proof points. I definitely recommend Suzanne for your marketing and development needs.”
Clark Hogan, President & CEO, CoreTech Foundation“Suzanne was invaluable in advising on our nonprofit's resource development plan. We would, without hesitation, recommend their consulting services. Suzanne has a comprehensive understanding of the nonprofit space, which came through in her pragmatic approach to fundraising for CoreTech. They also provided input on our business planning and marketing efforts, which proved very helpful in the long run. Suzanne and her team were truly part of the CoreTech team.”
Amy Grat, CEO, International Trade Education Programs (ITEP)"The board described it as culture-shifting -- having Julie facilitate our Board Retreat. Envision Consulting's surveys and inclusive process helped further strengthen our Board/staff partnership and future strategy. We're thankful for her help with this heavy lift. We put in so much front-end effort, but Julie's expert guidance and facilitation are what made it come together."