Even award-winning organizations like N Street Village sometimes need help. With exciting plans to grow through the potential acquisition of a smaller organization, Executive Director Schroeder Stribling was suddenly confronted with change in her development department: the chief fundraiser was retiring early, the deputy development officer was leaving for maternity leave, and the development associate had unexpectedly given notice — all at the same time. Stribling knew she needed help.
Stribling interviewed a lot of development consultants but felt that Onward would approach fundraising as a partner, a strategist and an innovator. “Maureen is not a traditionalist in philanthropy,” said Stribling, describing Onward’s managing partner Maureen Holla. “I liked her out-of-the-box, progressive thinking.”
“N Street Village is one of the best programs in the region. Their impact is life-changing and lasting. Thanks to their work, countless women have reclaimed their lives,” said Holla. “They were facing a perfect storm of opportunity and challenge. They needed immediate help to reorganize their development department so that it could match their strategic ambitions.”
Originally, N Street Village called on Onward to conduct a development audit and reorganize the department. Onward began with an internal examination using a traditional SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. Then Onward studied the field conducting a benchmark study of proxy organizations to identify best practices and understand the competition.
Stribling expanded the contract to include strategic and tactical development plans, work plans that aligned with the strategy, talent search to find the right staff and executive coaching for the new development director. Working together, Onward helped N Street Village articulate their aspirations, test their viability, and craft an intelligent four-year strategic and operational plan.
“Onward delivered a four-year plan that made a lot of sense, was ambitious without being bonkers, was disciplined and extremely thorough,” said Stribling. “Then [they] brought it down into work plans, mapped out the organizational chart and helped us hire the right people for the department.”
This comprehensive approach to consulting — from strategic to tactical to execution — is a hallmark of Onward. “We’re not going to just say, ‘You need a performance management system or you need to develop your major givers,’” said Holla. “They know that. We’re going to teach them how to do it. Sometimes, an organization just needs the work done — and we do it. When the time is right, we can train or help them hire the right person going forward. It is about collaborating with your client, understanding the needs and the timing for those needs and executing in partnership.”
Stribling was impressed with Onward’s collaborative approach. “Onward distinguished themselves with their degree of interaction with us,” said Stribling. “Maureen really understood N Street. She really got our organization, our culture, our chemistry — she worked to understand us and to really customize the work. We feel a lot of ownership and investment in the plan, because it is of our own making.”
Holla was impressed with N Street Village’s investment. “N Street Village squeezed every bit out of our consulting agreement— which I love!” said Holla. “They were very smart to invest in the strategic, the tactical and discrete projects to ensure the success of the plan. Too often, a strategy lies passive, because there isn’t the expertise or time to make it real. N Street Village asked us to transform its development strategy into marching orders for the staff, complete with metrics to assess performance.”
“Onward provided high value, was extremely affordable, produced exceptional work and was a lot of fun,” said Stribling. “We will see the benefits for years to come.”