Greater Washington

Consulting

What We Offer in Strategic Consulting

Providing over $88 million of pro bono consulting services since 2001, Compass Greater Washington serves the greater region including suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia.

Compass recruits, trains and supports teams of business professionals.  We work with MBAs from top business schools, and other volunteers with experience in different functional areas, including strategic planning, finance, marketing & communications, change management, technology, operations, and consulting. We welcome business professionals at varying stages of their careers.

Each nonprofit client receives approximately $210,000 – $230,000 of strategic consulting services – free of charge. Our volunteers not only deliver focused analyses and recommendations, but also provide advice along the way, so nonprofits can internalize the most useful and relevant management principles.

Our Service Lines

Compass offers consulting projects in different service lines. Nonprofit applicants must select one service line for their project. Click below to read the full descriptions.

Board Development

Board Development projects aim to improve effectiveness and engagement to sustain a high-performing board. The Compass team provides an objective evaluation of board operations and structure, and offers recommendations to build a solid foundation of governance, recruitment, onboarding, committee functions and charters, effective meetings, reporting, and communications. Compass can assess board member satisfaction, provide best practices for leadership evaluation, and help the board identify gaps in skills, industry expertise, board expertise, and representation. Projects may also include guidance on leadership succession planning and strategies for involving the board in development efforts.

 

Project Examples:

  • A disability services organization looked to improve the effectiveness and engagement of their board. The Compass team analyzed the board bylaws and documents, conducted board and staff interviews, and benchmarked board best practices with comparable organizations. The final deliverable included tailored recommendations around board governance, a new board fundraising policy, board meeting agenda templates and customized reports and dashboards.
  • A housing organization looked to examine the focus, direction, and structure of their board to better align with their mission. The Compass team reviewed board documents, attended board and committee meetings, conducted board and staff interviews, and administered an in-depth survey. The final presentation synthesized interview and survey findings accompanied by corresponding recommendations for committee structures and board fundraising policies.

Decision Support

Decision Support Projects are designed to provide flexible consulting and data-driven support to nonprofit leaders faced with a menu of multiple opportunities and challenges that demand resolution. Decision Support Projects can help nonprofit leaders address and prioritize challenges, explore new opportunities, evaluate options and work to chart a course for the future.  Compass’ other project options provide deep analysis and recommendations in one focus area (Service Line). Decision Support Projects have a broad scope that can encompass multiple opportunities and challenges within the project time frame. In Decision Support Projects, a Compass team can 1) generate data, analyze information, and create frameworks to support current and future decision-making, 2) evaluate the consequences of course adjustments or opportunities, 3) provide decision making support to nonprofits as they plan next steps and if appropriate, 4) establish a communications plan around decisions made.

 

Project Examples:

  • A youth leadership development organization was faced with numerous strategic decisions to make to adjust and pivot programming due to the pandemic. The Compass team conducted stakeholder interviews, analyzed internal documents and data, and performed an in-depth peer analysis. The final deliverable presented the interview findings and analysis, program expansion and modification recommendations, and a financial modeling tool to aid future decision-making.
  • A disability services organization looked for opportunities to maximize their impact by prioritizing three key areas: a real estate framework, a growth assessment, and a revenue model. The Compass team reviewed internal documents to develop an understanding of the organization’s current state. They also interviewed internal and external stakeholders and conducted a senior leadership and board workshop to refine the project priorities. The Compass team created folders for each of the project priorities which included a recommended approach to making the specific decision(s), tools and frameworks and instructions for using them, and project findings related to the decision area.

Funding Strategy

Funding Strategy projects provide guidance to position the organization for greater fundraising success. Depending on the organization’s activities and opportunities, the Compass team can assess revenue sources and revenue generation methods, analyze funding streams, and provide guidance to broaden or deepen current sources of revenue, identify untapped sources for funding, and screen out less promising avenues. Compass typically provides recommendations to improve fundraising processes and external communications, and required organizational support, including board engagement. These projects are more successful when the organization has a current strategic plan in place.

 

Project Examples

  • A housing organization looked to increase individual donor giving to diversify funding. The Compass team conducted interviews with peer organizations, conducted a marketing audit, and completed a financial analysis. The final presentations included recommendations for mission/vision alignment, a refined and clearly articulated value proposition, development job descriptions, and community engagement and marketing ideas.
  • A mental health organization sought Compass’s support with their transition out of a major earned income funding stream. The Compass team conducted stakeholder interviews, a comprehensive donor data analysis, a communications and website assessment, and reviewed peer organizations. In addition to their funding strategy recommendations, the team created report templates to analyze major donors, a volunteer process map, a donor messaging playbook, and a two-year strategic roadmap for implementation.
  • An environmental organization wanted the Compass team to assess the effectiveness of their current funding strategy plans and determine areas for innovation and improvement. The Compass team reviewed organizational communications materials and data, conducted interviews with staff, donors, and board members, and conducted a peer analysis. The team’s final presentation highlighted their findings and recommendations, as well as defined a specific strategy that the organization should execute to leverage the board, build brand awareness and grow its donor base.

New Ventures

Nonprofit leaders often have great ideas for new programs or earned income ventures but lack the organizational bandwidth to evaluate them and create a launch plan. A Compass team will gather the data and conduct the research and analysis to determine the feasibility of a new initiative and recommend a framework for launching the product. The initial project phase includes a feasibility assessment comprised of market and competitive analysis, financial modeling, and an examination of strategic, organizational, and operational considerations that would lead to a go/no go recommendation. Following a “go” recommendation, the team would focus on next steps to operationalize the venture, including potential pilot program design. Alternatively, following a “no go” recommendation, the Compass team may explore related new ideas or ways to expand or enhance existing programs. Applicants to this service line must propose a specific new venture for evaluation.

 

Project Examples

  • An immigrant services organization requested a feasibility study and business plan to help them develop a fee-based early childhood education center. The Compass team researched compliance and licensing requirements, performed stakeholder interviews, and conducted financial modeling to develop a cost model. The mid-point presentation contained a summary with the logistical, financial, and organizational requirements to start the early childhood education center. The summary revealed the high costs to entry, and the team and client agreed to research a training program instead. The final presentation contained a framework for starting the training program, including research on required credentials, potential career ladders, and partnerships throughout the region.
  • An affordable housing nonprofit looked for an earned income feasibility assessment for a new service and/or the identification of other services to complement or replace the original idea. The Compass team conducted a market analysis, researched compliance and licensing requirements, and created a pricing and cost of services model. These preliminary findings were presented at the mid-point, where the client and team decided that the idea was not feasible. For the remainder of the project, the team dedicated to researching other feasible services and their final deliverable contained decision making frameworks for a few earned income ideas.

Partnerships, Collaborations, and Mergers

Partnerships, Collaborations & Mergers projects help nonprofits make more efficient use of resources as they consider partnering with other organizations with complementary expertise and strengths to fulfill a common mission. Compass can help assess the value and appropriateness of strategic partnerships, collaborations, or mergers and offer recommendations and an analysis of resulting implications.

 

Project Examples:

  • An organization that serves families experiencing homelessness recently merged with an organization and looked to develop a post-merger integration assessment to integrate both organizations’ programs, services, and operations. The Compass team worked with integration staff members to gather and analyze data on programs, donor and funding sources, finances, and facilities and technology to evaluate overlaps and gaps between the two organizations. The team also interviewed and surveyed key stakeholders from both organizations, and integrated findings into recommendations. The final deliverable included an integration implementation roadmap, an analysis on budget and fundraising impacts, a merger communication plan, and a proposed new mission statement.
  • An environmental organization looked to identify strategic nonprofit, corporate, and public partnerships to more effectively advance their mission. The Compass team reviewed organizational documents, conducted stakeholder interviews, conducted a SWOT analysis, and selected and screened 27 potential partner organizations. The final deliverable included a workshop with the client leadership team regarding key potential partner organizations, as well as included a going-forward partnership project plan.

Strategic Alignment

Strategic Alignment projects can help nonprofits examine their mission, vision, programs, targeted beneficiaries, desired changes, strategic objectives and supporting activities to understand how to achieve the greatest impact. Strategic Alignment projects can quantify and analyze the allocation of financial and staff resources across programs and compare this data against organizational priorities, as well as evaluate opportunities for service or program development. These projects can also take the form of a “strategic planning prep” project and help ensure that the Board and organization leadership are aligned around mission, vision, and key choices in preparation for strategic planning and/or long-term goal setting.

 

Project Examples:

  • A children’s organization looked to strengthen its mission and vision statements and develop strategic goals to prepare for their upcoming strategic planning process. The Compass team interviewed and surveyed key board and staff, reviewed organizational documents including mission and vision statements, and benchmarked against comparable organizations. The final presentation included recommended refinements to its mission and vision statements, as well as an in-depth analysis and development of recommended strategic goals.
  • An educational organization looked to articulate their strategic direction and assess their organizational needs and opportunities. The Compass team conducted stakeholder interviews, benchmarking research, and a market trends analysis. The final presentation included an analysis and recommendations for the following organizational areas: staffing, programming, financial planning, and data management.

Strategic Marketing

Strategic Marketing projects help nonprofits better fulfill their mission and vision through effective marketing. The Compass team can devise a strategy to (1) establish existing services or products in a new market, or (2) introduce a new service or product* in an existing market. Recommendations would be based on an understanding of the market, consumers, pricing research if applicable, internal operations, and best practices. The team can help the client create a positioning statement and relevant messaging, develop a financial model to determine pricing, identify appropriate marketing channels, research investment required to execute, and create an overarching marketing strategy to raise awareness of a nonprofit’s offering. Please note: projects do not include collateral development. *For new services or products that are in the idea stage, please see New Ventures Service Line description.

 

Project Examples:

  • A violence interruption organization looked for support with their planned expansion into a new geographic area. The Compass team conducted stakeholder interviews, a socio-economic analysis, and an in-depth review of existing related services. The final presentation included a detailed roll-out and communications strategy, detailed audience profiles, and campaign ideas.
  • A workforce development organization wanted a new marketing strategy to maximize their reach and visibility in their current market. The Compass team reviewed internal documents, data, and existing marketing materials, interviewed numerous stakeholders, conducted a competitor analysis, and volunteered directly with the organization to understand the value proposition first-hand. The final presentation included a messaging framework, a brand and website audit, and an implementation plan.
  • A youth development center looked to grow and increase awareness for their training program through a new marketing and pricing strategy. The Compass team conducted stakeholder interviews and analyzed current marketing efforts to evaluate the existing messaging, value proposition, and program reach. The team also examined program costs, alternative services, and estimated market demand. The final deliverable included a strategic marketing plan with actional recommendations, a financial analysis, and a pricing model that can be used to analyze program inputs.

Technology Strategy

Technology Strategy Projects help nonprofits leverage technology to enhance their ability to deliver on their missions and support their short- and long-term goals. Project objectives may include developing a more cohesive and efficient technology strategy overall or in a specific service area, or may focus more narrowly on how data collection and analytics can better enable strategic decision-making and impact reporting. Compass can also help nonprofits understand how to design and implement existing or new services that could be offered using digital technologies. These projects will assess and provide recommendations for staffing, processes, and technology associated with the organization’s stated project objective.

 

Project Examples

  • A youth organization looked to increase technology use and efficiency. The Compass team reviewed data collection processes, the technology inventory, conducted a risk assessment, and performed an inventory and skills gap analysis. The final presentation included key findings, and an in-depth review of relevant software and hardware technology.
  • An after-school enrichment and education organization looked to explore technology-based solutions for their tutoring programs. The Compass team analyzed current program processes, conducted a market review of online tutoring programs, created a functional and technical capability matrix, and analyzed 36 technology service providers. The final deliverable provided an in-depth review and proposal for two technology service providers and included a pilot program implementation plan.
  • An anti-violence organization looked to strengthen its data analysis collection and reporting system to better track and improve effectiveness of services. The Compass team reviewed the quality of existing data and KPIs, conducted a technology review (technology inventory, financial review, user experience assessment, complexity evaluation, and automation potential), and conducted a competitive analysis to understand best practices. The final deliverables included an inventory of key technologies, documented research of technology tools, an assessment of data quality and relevance as it relates to measuring effectiveness, recommendations based on the analysis of the current technological and data infrastructure, and a recommended high-level implementation strategy.

Questions? Contact Hallie Smith, Greater Washington Executive Director, at hsmith@compassdc.org.

“Compass is a gift to the
non-profit world.”

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