The DeKalb County Youth Service Bureau (YSB) is a nonprofit 501 c3 organization that has provided counseling, groups, and other supportive services to adolescents and their families for more than 40 years. Its clientele have been identified as at-risk and typically are from low-income households.
YSB’s story was typical of so many nonprofits out there – they were trying to fulfill a great need for service with limited funding. For 42 years, the organization managed to keep up with a growing number of clients (a 325 percent increase during a 10-year period) until the economy crashed in 2008. Jason Nicol, Executive Director, explained, “At that point, we lost 25 percent of our revenue all at once ($500,000 budget/year). We had to cut programs, staff, expenses, and so forth. We were eventually able to balance the budget again, but we knew we could not sustain at this level of increased clients and decreased funding. We spent the next 2-3 years becoming leaner in our process, restructuring staff positions, aligning everything to our mission, and doing anything we could to rebuild.”
And while the restructuring solved the budget problem, there was a concern about the organization’s sustainability in the future. How could they ensure that they would always have adequate funding to fulfill their mission? “While our Board of Directors had provided amazing leadership during the economic crunch, we were still in need of a road map on how to grow and become more self-reliant in the future,” Jason said. They wanted to get out of “survival mode” and start looking at bigger ideas that could drive the organization forward, but they needed an expert to guide them through the process since the organization had never been through a process like that before.
YSB hired Stacy French Reynolds from Anchor Advisors to facilitate a formal strategic planning process. “It was easy to see how experienced she was based on the types of questions she asked,” Jason said. “She immediately understood our situation and what we were in need of. Long story short, she instilled confidence in us that we were in good hands and we began the process in January 2012.”
Stacy worked with the Board to come up with a 5-page strategic plan that outlined the Board’s top strategic goals. Stacy said, “A lot of people are intimidated by the term ‘strategic plan.’ They envision a strategic plan being in a thick binder, but it’s really a just few pages filled with clear goals along with the plans to achieve those goals. This document creates clarity that gets the whole
organization on the same page.”
With a strategic plan in place, the board can now focus their efforts on where they need to go as an organization. They can “be proactive and choose a course rather than to be reactionary,” Stacy said. “That way, if they hit rocky waters again, they’ll know what’s core, and they can act to preserve that immediately.” But beyond that, they have found some activities and actions that they can take which will enable them to grow their funding and the impact they are making.
“Stacy proved to be highly effective and provided outstanding leadership,” Jason said. “She involved everyone from our Board and was able to coalesce their ideas and strategies into one unified plan of action. Her leadership and direction kept us focused on the real issues throughout. She was respectful of everyone’s time and very well organized. She understood what the final product needed to look like and guided us directly to it with ease.”
Jason said, “We now have a user friendly strategic plan that provides an ongoing road map for our agency to follow. As executive director, I have felt a better understanding of my role in the future of this agency and exactly how to get there. I would strongly recommend other organizations go through this process if they haven’t already. We are extremely happy with the results. It is well
worth the time investment.”