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Success Stories

Compass Guides River School to Become a National Model for Deaf Education

The River School serves children who are deaf and hard of hearing in an inclusive environment, alongside their hearing peers. Their mission is to combine best practices of early childhood education and of oral deaf education. The school was six years old when Compass stepped in. They had grown from 10 students and five employees to 240 students and 70 employees. This was a critical time for the organization, and the board felt strongly that in order to move forward successfully, strategic alignment was essential. A Compass team worked with the board, staff, faculty, and parents over two years. According to the school’s founder, Nancy Mellon, “We needed the outside, objective approach that Compass brought. They made us step back and look at the bigger picture, and did so with sensitivity. As a result of the project, we made staffing and budget changes to better support our faculty, we restructured our board, and we formed a task force to expand our model to the national scale through replication.” According to Carolyn Jeppsen, Board Trustee and Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee, “The Compass team led us compassionately and insightfully through the process for two years. We couldn’t have achieved our effective strategic planning without the leadership of the Compass team.”

Compass Helps CLC Ramp Up to Serve More At-Risk Children

The Children’s Law Center provides legal services to at-risk children and their families in Washington. CLC turned to Compass after growing rapidly from three to 35 employees in about four years. “Before Compass, the organization was too dependent on me personally, and that was an obstacle to successful growth,” says Judith Sandalow, Executive Director. That steep growth curve would bring them to 65 employees by 2008. “After the Compass project, we doubled the staff and tripled the number of clients we serve—all while maintaining the quality of our service—and we could not have done that if Compass had not helped us build the infrastructure and shown us how to solve problems strategically as a management team.” With CLC able to serve more clients, more children are protected from risks ranging from abuse and neglect to deprivation of government services. Sandalow was pleased when she discovered that she could learn from the team’s work as the project proceeded. Sandalow says that Compass advising her along the way was more valuable than the final team report and was grateful that the team did not save recommendations until the end. After the project, Sandalow recruited one team member to be her first COO, and she continued to work with another team member as her business coach and advisor.

Compass Brings New Ideas to ASF’s Youth Apprentice Program

The Alexandria Seaport Foundation offers disadvantaged youths ages 17 to 21 a paid apprenticeship program building wooden boats. The program helps youths develop the discipline, self-confidence, and workshop and social skills necessary to find a meaningful place in the regular workforce. In the fall of 2005, ASF asked Compass for help with their funding strategy. “We thought we needed to double our funding to double our capacity, but the Compass team quickly helped us find the key lever for growth, shining a light on options we had not considered,” states Joe Youcha, Executive Director. “Compass taught me the full value of a rigorous strategic planning process. They didn’t tell us what to do, they showed us, by asking smart questions. That’s what led us to be classbased, rather than shop-based, so we could rotate more kids through our facilities.” Given the rapid one-year growth rate, ASF’s five-year strategic plan became obsolete. So, part of the Compass team stayed after the project ended to help revise it. Today, ASF is looking for ways to extend the apprenticeshipcurriculum nationally. Youcha sums it up this way, “We’ve worked with many consultants before, and it was often a waste of time. But the Compass model is fabulous!”