Most non-profits start their work with the desire to make an impact. But without a clear strategic framework to guide that work, and mutually agreed upon tactics to sustain it, your impact can be diluted by competing programmatic demands, operational crises, and day to day survival.
In partnership with Amy Gudgeon and Studio Watershed, we have created the sustainable growth plan--a hybrid between traditional strategic and business plans that grounds your future impact in solid analytics and strong business principles.
GCIC can help you:
1. Create a sense of ownership and consensus
Your board, staff, consumer, partner, and investor audiences have a critical stake in the success of your future vision. Through interviews, focus groups, and stakeholder retreats, we will diplomatically navigate conflict, garner consensus at every phase, and build momentum towards implementation.
2. Convert your future vision into a strong strategic framework
In partnership, we will translate your founding mission into a compelling, modern vision that meets community needs, builds upon the assets of your target population, and has the power to mobilize others towards your cause. This strategic framework houses your mission, vision, organizational values, and goals. It is a snapshot of what you value most dearly, who you are at your core, and who you will become.
3. Decide where to begin
Once your strategic framework is in place, we build supporting initiatives and step by step tactics towards implementation. But your plan can seem overwhelming until you have set priorities, timed out the work, and considered what needs to come off your plate. We help you map plan goals against operational, financial, and impact criteria to create a feasible chronology for implementation. Once we pair this chronology with success metrics and roles and responsibilities, you will have a working, living action plan to serve as your roadmap for the future.
4. Sustain your impact
Throughout the process, we will ground your future vision in strong business principles and help you evolve your business model to support the future growth you seek. We equip you with tools and resources you may use to evaluate opportunities, measure your success, and report on your plan's progress. Finally, we work with organizations on a quarterly basis through the first year of implementation to provide some external accountability, adjust the plan as necessary, and help you build board and stakeholder reporting packages.Close
Whether you answer to a board, donors, your corporation’s business priorities, or simply your own desire to make a difference in the world, impact investors are ultimately accountable to someone. And as resources decline and nonprofits struggle with their very survival, it is increasingly important that every dollar you invest delivers on your mission.
We can work with you from start to finish to apply thoughtful, research-based strategy to your approach, engage stakeholders and grantees in your plan and measurement framework, and aggregate results to demonstrate your mission’s success.
Some key areas where we can help:
What change do you want to create for individuals, families, and communities? How does that translate into a singular vision?
Establish scope and scale
What is feasible given the size of your investments? Do you need to narrow by strategy, geography, population, or service type? What is the best, information-based approach to create change on an appropriate scale?
To what extent do you need community, peer, and recipient input as you develop your investment plan? What are the best methods to collect it?
Create a measurement framework
How will you measure your impact? What return on investment can you anticipate? What data should you collect from grantees, and how can you convert that data into intelligence for board, stakeholder, government, and media audiences?
Publish an investment strategy
How can you articulate your plan in a way that will inspire and engage grantees, show your thought leadership, bring other funders to the table, and ensure your investments reach their intended impact?Close
Healthy organizations continually evolve, using a solid foundation of data to inform everything from simple programmatic adjustments to downright overhauls.
A program audit can help you assess program gaps and weaknesses, and direct resources towards greatest impact. An overarching impact framework clarifies your value proposition, aligns programs and tools, and demonstrates how participants move through a defined ladder of engagement. We can also build new signature programs, accompanying curricula and trainings, and measurement systems in support of your future vision.
Some key questions we can help you answer:
What is the current state of your programs?
A program audit will analyze current outcome data, participant experience, and resource allocation to identify strengths and gaps, help you direct resources towards your highest impact work, and recommend adjustments (re-structuring programs; re-framing impact; tweaking geography, target population, staffing models, or approaches).
Where do you sit in relation to your peers?
An environmental scan complements your program audit by analyzing others in your geography and/or field to identify promising practices, articulate or refine your value proposition, and surface your most critical peers, partners, and competitors.
What is the consumer experience for your program participants?
A defined ladder of engagement can help clarify how participants attach to your social change movement and follow through on a desired impact. We will work with you to arrange your programs and tools in a successive order that hooks, engages, and deepens your relationship with participants to increase the number who ultimately take action on the outcomes you seek.
How do your programs become more than a sum of their parts?
By situating your services inside a compelling impact framework, we can begin to articulate a whole that is more than the sum of its parts. With an unrelenting focus on measurable results, we can work with you to build curricula and delivery mechanisms, refine data collection methods and sources, and aggregate your outcomes to correlate to the overarching impact you envision.
How do we prepare staff and volunteers to implement?
We are seasoned trainers and facilitators ready to ground your stakeholders in your clarified future direction, train them in the ladder of engagement and signature curricula, and equip them with the confidence they need to acquire and exercise new skills. We also offer trainings in public speaking, non-judgmental facilitation techniques, and anti-oppression practices for non-profit providers.Close
A Better Chicago invests in the region’s most effective nonprofits that are creating opportunities for low income children, adults, and families. GCIC performs business planning and capacity building with grantees to incubate innovative programs and bring them to scale, all while maintaining a strong and sustainable model.Close
In the past two years, Chicago Commons has experienced unprecedented growth and expanded programs. In response, they sought a plan for organizational recruitment that would ensure continual avenues for their target population to discover, enroll, and move through a more comprehensive array of available services. GCIC worked with Chicago Commons to build a recruitment plan, train staff in its use, and transition organizational culture to support client referrals within and across departments.Close
Citizen Schools Illinois convened a group of the leading nonprofits serving middle-grade students (AUSL, High Jump, SPARK, Y-Men) to create a framework for high school academic match and social emotional fit. GCIC is working with this group over 2 years to create and launch a tool that can be adopted by participants and prepared for replication in the CPS network.Close
CureSearch National Children’s Cancer Foundation had just separated from the Children's Oncology Group and, in the process, gone from a budget of $50 million in annual NIH research investments to an independent, agile organization raising and investing non-governmental funds.
CEO Laura Thrall brought in GCIC to define a vision for the future, build an outcome measurement framework to track the vision’s impact, and craft a Case for Support to articulate the new strategy for communities and donors. Now, a $5 million dollar 'Acceleration Portfolio' is supporting targeted initiatives to accelerate the pace of children’s cancer research.Close
Donor’s Forum, with support from the Wallace Foundation, had just completed 18 months of work to build public-private partnerships through its Building a Stronger Illinois initiative. Now, it needed help to examine the impact of these partnerships, articulate promising practices, and capture a road map for future partnership building.
A Management Improvement Initiative study made the case for a nonprofit liaison who could bring nonprofit and government partners together to increase system efficiencies and streamline service delivery. A second study on Budgeting For Results assessed alignment between a pilot outcome measurement project and the partnership principles outlined by Building a Stronger Illinois.Close
The Community Outreach and Engagement Department within JUF/JF creates strong and growing outreach into the Jewish community to engage people across the lifespan, offering low-barrier opportunities for young families, teens, young adults, and adults to learn, support each other, find entertainment, serve the community, grow in their faith, and connect to Israel. GCIC is working with JUF/JF to evaluate how, as the department’s influence and impact grows, they can thoughtfully build a road map forward to guide growth and maximize impact.Close
Marillac St. Vincent Family Services has engaged GCIC to perform an outcome measurement project. Two separate 501(C)3s under one organizational umbrella, Marillac Social Center and St. Vincent de Paul Center share some programs (early childhood and senior services) but operate them in different neighborhoods and in different ways. We are building a framework that can aggregate outcomes across multiple sites and programs to demonstrate overarching impact to donors and the community, but also be used by each individual program to guide its day to day work.Close
GCIC empowers organizations to define, measure, and market their impact. We have worked with some of the largest and most recognized Chicago human service agencies, national nonprofits and philanthropic organizations, and young, entrepreneurial non-profits ready to evolve to the next level. This work has encompassed strategic and sustainability planning, capacity building, program development and impact measurement, executive coaching and leadership development.
Elizabeth Cole is widely recognized as a persuasive and charismatic leader who can engage staff, board members, community leaders, and stakeholders in an organization’s vision for social change.
From 2008-2012, Elizabeth Graettinger Cole oversaw $40 million in annual grants to over 250 health and human service agencies in the 6 county metropolitan area as Vice President of Community Investments at United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. Through her efforts to narrow and deepen the impact UWMC was able to make with its funding, and her work with United Way Worldwide to increase graduation rates by 50% over a ten year period, Elizabeth honed a strong point of view on the common struggle non-profits share in this era of diminishing resources and increasing need. During her tenure, Elizabeth created three subsequent impact frameworks in the areas of Income, Education, and Health, and developed ‘Live United 2020’, a ten-year vision to integrate Income, Education, and Health interventions within strong neighborhood networks.
Ten years’ experience on the service provision side at YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago grounded Elizabeth in the realities non-profits face as they try to do good, sometimes in too many disparate directions. In her last role at the YWCA, Elizabeth led that organization’s transformation to a ‘Model YWCA’ structure, with economic empowerment and racial justice programming in neighborhoods of greatest need across the metropolitan footprint. Simultaneously, Elizabeth chaired the YWCA USA Advocacy Committee in the wake of a national re-structuring. Her committee created the organization’s first ever advocacy agenda, re-structured the national office to support implementation on the agenda, and built momentum for grassroots advocacy across the country, culminating in the 2004 March for Women’s Lives.
Elizabeth lives in Wilmette, IL with her partner, Cory, and two young daughters. She sings with and has served on the board for the Apollo Chorus of Chicago, is Vice President of the Board of Center for New Community, and was a founding board member of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. Elizabeth mentors CPS first generation students to access college with Chicago Scholars, is a Girl Scout troop leader, and is an active member of Congregation Hakafa. In her spare time Elizabeth writes letters to her daughters, designs and re-designs her dream kitchen, and relishes delicious cocktails with very good girlfriends.
Annette Charles has more than 17 years experience working with nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and foundations on community planning, program strategy, design, and implementation, performance measurement, operational improvement, and advocacy. Her interest areas include affordable housing, community development, training and employment, financial empowerment, collective impact, mental health, and collaborative health and human service models.
From 2012-2014, Annette was the AVP of Community Program Development at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. The team’s charge was to work with a diverse set of agencies & programs to grow resources and advance sustainable initiatives that addressed gaps in community services. While there, her team increased grant revenues by 17%+ in a single year. Annette also crafted the new Jewish Federation Breakthrough Fund, which committed $1 million in its first year to social entrepreneurship efforts and innovation.
From 2008-2012, Annette was Director of Community Investment at United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. While there, she led the creation of impact plans, measurement frameworks, and strategic initiatives, as well as targeted fundraising to allow for implementation of larger-scale projects.
Prior to Annette’s move to Chicago, she worked with 11 local units of government in Washtenaw County, Michigan, to form a HUD-designated ‘Urban County’ and develop community plans for two new federally-funded community development and housing programs (CDBG and HOME). This work included the creation of shared goals and programming across diverse communities, and included strategic, annual, and neighborhood-based planning.
Annette has a MPP/MSW from the University of Michigan, with a focus on public policy in the areas of poverty, inequality, and mental health. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Kerwin, and two young sons, Lucas and Cyrus. To feed her spirit, Annette looks for chances to explore, either by wandering, reading, or answering the never-ending curiosity of her kiddos.