Impact and Past Projects
Learn more about how BANC supports Chicago-area nonprofits by reading about some of the projects we’ve completed.
Since 2015, Booth alumni volunteers have partnered with BANC to provide pro bono strategy, planning, and advisory services.
From helping to reduce patient stress and uncertainty at the Illinois Medical District Guest House to helping the nonprofit Loaves & Fishes Community Services expand its service of providing in-need families with access to healthy meals, BANC’s impact has reached across industries and made a real, lasting impact in people’s lives.
Here’s a look at some of the work they’ve done.
Growth Strategy - Finding the Right Partners for a Social Service Agency
Apna Ghar works to end gender violence through critical, culturally competent, services. Given the pervasiveness of gender violence, the board sought to increase the organization’s reach and diversify its revenue sources. Strategic partnerships were an option, but what kind? Apna Ghar needed a plan. Click here for a summary of the project.
Apna Ghar works to end gender violence through critical, culturally competent, services. Given the pervasiveness of gender violence, the board sought to increase the organization’s reach and diversify its revenue sources. Strategic partnerships were an option, but what kind? Apna Ghar needed a plan.
Apna Ghar was founded in 1990 to address gender violence in Chicago’s South Asian community. It emphasized culturally competent services for people dealing with language, immigration, and other issues in addition to violence in the home. Since that time, the organization has recruited an impressive board, developed an international reputation for its approach, and expanded its reach in terms of services offered and populations served.
Apna Ghar’s executive director, Neha Gill, applied to BANC following an internal strategic planning process. Given the pervasiveness of gender violence, the staff and board wanted to double Apna Ghar’s reach by 2023 and diversify its revenue sources away from government funding. Secondary goals included gaining operating efficiencies and expanding the pool of potential board members to improve succession planning.
One way to meet Apna Ghar’s objectives would be through a strategic partnership, but what kind? Mergers, acquisitions, and other partnerships are becoming more common in the nonprofit sector. In the Chicago area, recent transactions have ranged ranging from the acquisition of John Marshall Law School by the University of Illinois at Chicago to the partnership for performance space that the Joffrey Ballet entered into with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. StreetWise merged with the YWCA, partly to create back-office efficiencies, and the Chicago Foundation for Women merged with the Eleanor Foundation, which has similar aims.
A BANC team of seven consultants headed by Clifton Muhammad went to work with Apna Ghar in November 2019. The project scope had three parts. First, determine the types of partnerships that will help Apna Ghar reach its growth objective. Second, develop a list of criteria that Apna Ghar could use to identify successful merger and partnership candidates. Third, document a process for Apna Ghar’s leadership to identify and vet potential partnership and merger candidates.
The team started with a site visit, followed by simple but powerful SWOT and gap analyses. These guided the next steps.
To collect information about priorities, the team interviewed staffers, board members, funders, and other stakeholders. Through this, they learned more about Apna Ghar and about changing practices to address gender violence. Apna Ghar and other organizations emerged to make people aware of the problem and to provide safe housing. While both of those are important, the work has expanded to include work to prevent gender violence, to change family dynamics, to support children growing up in these families, and to support survivors who do not want to leave their homes. The research phase of the project helped the BANC consultants fit the different aspects of this nonprofit sector into Apna Ghar’s strategic priorities.
Although the MBA standard for evaluating a merger is based on net present value of future cash flows, that measure makes less sense in the non-profit world. Instead, Cliff Muhammad, the team’s leader and a software consultant by trade, suggested a template based on those used to evaluate software purchases. He had the team evaluate Apna Ghar’s needs, assign scored based on importance, and create a spreadsheet that would allow for a quick guideline. This way, Apna Ghar’s leaders could determine which partnership ideas were worth further investigation.
After taking a deep look at the research, the BANC team enumerated the characteristics of a successful partnership:
- Grow and deepen the mission in community,
- Achieve operational efficiencies,
- Grow outreach of Apna Ghar services,
- Diversify and strengthen funding,
- Diversify staff and board while improving succession plan.
Those priorities fed into the scoring template. Users can consider the characteristics of a potential partner, then look at how it fits into Apna Ghar’s priorities. The resulting score helps the board and management team determine which overtures should be pursued and which make little sense right now.
For example, Apna Ghar has a strong board. Although it would like to find good candidates to replace current members who move on, especially candidates who are not South Asian, acquiring a board is not a driver for a merger. On the other hand, an organization with a strong volunteer network could deepen Apna Ghar’s reach, making volunteer networks a higher priority than the quality of a potential partner’s board.
Covid led to shutdowns just as the BANC team was finishing up its work. They presented the findings to Apna Ghar’s staff and board via Zoom when was still a (relatively) new thing. Gill says that the BANC team delivered more than she and her team expected. “The rubric and the recommendations were very detailed and thorough,” she says. “It didn’t just sit on the shelf. It was useful right away.”
Apna Ghar has used all of the recommendations of the BANC analysts. “At that time, a smaller organization had approached us about fiscal sponsorship and then they wanted to explore merger. We went through the exercise with them. It didn’t work because they were too small, and the mission didn’t align. The process was helpful. The information the consultants provided helped us. The mission alignment was a key factor. Having already thought it through with the consultants helped us in the decision making. We went back to their being a fiscal sponsor and supporting them in other ways.”
“It was my favorite project with pro-bono consultants,” Gill says, “I have recommended BANC to several other organizations.
The nonprofit builds a path to recovery for people impacted by mental illness by providing free and low-cost education, counseling, and support for individuals and their families—delivered by peers with lived experience. Founded by a group of parents in 1985 as an affiliate of the NAMI nationwide mental health advocacy organization, NAMI DuPage has grown to serve more than 30,000 DuPage area residents annually and is one of the largest and most innovative of 600 affiliates nationwide, acting as a catalyst for change and reform in DuPage County.
To support a change in leadership including a new executive director, key functional leaders, and a changing board, NAMI DuPage sought help with foundational work to review the business, assess priorities, and establish a three- to five-year strategic plan. Then COVID-19 hit. New projects were paused, and resources had to quickly shift to support the needs of NAMI clients. Not only did NAMI DuPage need to figure out how to keep its staff safe and offer virtual services to its existing members, the impact of isolation, fear, and uncertainty of COVID-19 intensified the need for mental health support. The health-care system quickly became overwhelmed and the need for programs that complement clinical behavioral health care increased overnight.
At that time, the leadership team had already selected BANC for the work. Geri Kerger, the new executive director, had worked with BANC at her former nonprofit and recommended that the board consider BANC. After exploring a few options, BANC was selected. Per Geri, “Having been familiar with another BANC project where I had the pleasure of working with Irena, Judy, and Gayle (former BANC co-directors), I knew that our small nonprofit did not have the resources to expend on the type of extensive strategic plan that BANC would be capable of performing and that would benefit us tremendously. I was so excited when we were accepted!” The team felt the “Cadillac” plan would provide the most comprehensive, quantitatively-oriented approach.
While the BANC team was formed and ready to start in April 2020, like everything at that time, the project was put on hold. After some time to assess options to conduct BANC projects virtually, the NAMI DuPage strategic planning project kicked off as the first 100 percent remote BANC engagement in July. Composed of Booth alumni with diverse backgrounds and experiences, the BANC team included Chelsey Cheng, ’18, Ira Goldberg, ’91, Bilal Memon,’03, Esther Morales, ’87, and Anne Stern, ’95, and was led by Irena Friedgan, ’08. The team members had experience in health care, finance, marketing, and operations. The BANC team met virtually to get organized, then kicked off the project with Geri and the NAMI DuPage board.
The BANC team was charged with evaluating NAMI DuPage to craft a strategic plan with clear, mission-related goals; a careful balance of business and mission; and objectives that were realistic, credible, and results oriented; and to deliver a forward-looking, living document. Over the course of several months, the BANC team performed internal and external assessments to evaluate challenges and opportunities, evaluate processes, and develop strategic goals and objectives. The internal assessment included one-on-one interviews with board members, NAMI leaders, and select staff responsible for key functional areas. The team explored the mission, vision, and values; drilled into program details; and assessed financial and operational viability. Additional interviews and secondary research reviewed the local market, competitive landscape; NAMI national, state, and other regional organizations; as well key referral and potential partner organizations. The team built an understanding of the situation that balanced market need, NAMI strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities, with the ability to execute and effectively serve local needs of the DuPage community.
The resulting plan and recommendations featured:
- Updates to mission, vision and values. The mission was refined to highlight NAMI DuPage strengths—free and low-cost education, counseling, and support for both individuals and families delivered by peers with lived experience. The team crafted a vision statement to summarize the directional statement of where they want to be, eliminating the stigma of mental illness and supporting and empowering all people impacted by mental health conditions to live life with purpose and meaning. And, the BANC team recommended that NAMI DuPage formally adopt the NAMI National values. These updates set a foundation for clearer communication about why and how NAMI DuPage exists; rallying cry to align and inspire staff who find meaning and purpose in the mission; and a cornerstone for the strategic plan.
- Strategic goals and objectives. The BANC team organized the strategic plan under three overarching objectives, including adoption of a metric-driven lens, improving visibility and reach of NAMI DuPage in the local community, and strengthening financial footing to position the organization to meet future goals.
- A program prioritization tool. With a critical observation and key recommendation grounded in using more quantitative, structured approaches to measure and celebrate successes, the BANC team went above and beyond to develop and deliver an innovative tool the team can use to evaluate its program offerings with a standard approach.
The team reviewed mid-project findings and the final plan with the Executive Director and board chair, then delivered a summary to the full board of directors. The results were well received.
The BANC team project lead, Irena, commented, “Our team of six focused on helping NAMI build a strong foundation. It was incredibly rewarding to be able to help a small local organization and its dedicated staff, whose services impact thousands of lives. COVID-19 heightened awareness and need for mental health resources and emotional support. The BANC team leveraged our diverse backgrounds to compose a strategic plan that addressed the current needs of the organization but also positioned it for long term growth and continued success.”
The NAMI DuPage team wasted no time acting on the plan. In the same board meeting where the plan was shared, the team assigned owners, discussed initial timeframes, and got to work. Geri summed up her experience: “The BANC team poured over program data and financials, interviewed stakeholders, reviewed NAMI national policies and even developed a tool specifically for us to measure our programs. They did not disappoint! The Board and staff are excited about working together to achieve the goals and objectives of the Plan, which are all clearly defined and attainable. We will be forever grateful to this superb BANC team for sharing their talents and time so generously and providing the framework NAMI DuPage needs to move forward during this critical time.”
Estimating Future Demand for Services in the Healthcare Space
For patients and their families facing the uncertainty associated with serious illness and care for complex healthcare conditions, Illinois Medical District (IMD) Guest House eases the stress and financial burden by providing comfortable, affordable, and convenient lodging throughout treatment. IMB Guest House sought out BANC to understand the social services referral systems; assess barriers of access; discover new lines of service; and identify areas of growth. Click here for a summary of the project.
When people need advanced care, such as organ transplants or pioneering treatment for certain cancers and other unusual diseases, they often come to major medical centers or academic medical centers in metropolitan areas for the best chance of recovery. IMD Guest House is the only place in Chicago that provides housing support for patients of any age. With a location in the Illinois Medical District on Chicago’s near west side, the organization offers fully furnished apartments with easy access to partner healthcare systems. IMD Guest House served more than 700 families and delivered more than 12,300 nights of service in 2019. No one is turned away from IMD Guest House for financial reasons. The maximum fee per night is discounted to what a family can afford, averaging $33/night, and for some, zero. And there’s no maximum length of stay; people stay as long as they need while they are actively getting treatment.
Of particular note: while world healthcare systems and support organizations have been upended during the pandemic, IMD Guest House stayed open. They flexed to accommodate families who arrived from overseas just before lockdown. They also provided an invaluable service to support medical staff from their healthcare partners, including UI Health System and Rush University Medical Center. IMD Guest House took care of about 45 medical staff who couldn’t go home during the pandemic, providing convenient housing with no out-of-pocket expense, for 1700 nights of service.
Managing and anticipating growth
Between 2011 and 2017, IMD Guest House quintupled in size, which prompted creation of a strategic plan. The critical path for next steps required market analysis to validate and size opportunities for future growth. To project their space needs and prepare for lease negotiations in the next two years, they needed concrete expectations for the scale of the program. Did they have the right amount of space? Should it go up? Or were they overextended?
IMD Guest House sought help to identify the current size of the market for their services, dependent on diagnosis-specific incidence rates, geographic areas served and financial need for the various sponsor institutions. Since this was a fairly classic consulting project, IMD Guest House was optimistic they could secure pro-bono services. However, after striking out with project proposals from local MBA students, IMD Guest House’s Executive Director, Adam Helman, was concerned they would not be able to get it done. Then an email from the Rustandy Center at Chicago Booth highlighted another potential resource: BANC.
The chance to secure a team of experienced consultants was an even better fit for IMD Guest House, so they submitted an application and were accepted for a BANC project.
Insight grounded by data
Led by project leader Robin Simon, the BANC team included Don Kleinmuntz, Susan Small, Chet Szerlag, Elias Yanaki and Elizabeth Young. It brought together Booth grads with a diverse set of backgrounds specific to the needs of the project including market research and sizing skills, as well as healthcare industry experience.
The team was tasked to: understand the structure and size of social services referral systems; assess awareness of and barriers to usage for IMD Guest House; identify potential additional departments/lines of service to target; and identify growth opportunities based on diagnosis, sponsor, geographic area and/or any other attributes that may surface over the course of the project. As a secondary objective, they also evaluated other possible partners, assessed the interest and quantified the possible opportunity to expand.
The team conducted primary and secondary research, securing and analyzing data about current usage and trends of IMD Guest House patient visits, disease incidence and population size within each by geography. They also assessed awareness among referral points at existing partners.
BANC consultants delivered deep insights to help ground IMD Guest House’s decision with data. They created high, medium, and low growth scenarios based on research findings, and delivered a spreadsheet tool for what-if expansion modeling that projected the need for increased space based on different sets of assumptions.
Setting realistic expectations to effectively plan for the future
Based on trends they saw in the market before engaging BANC, IMD Guest House leadership thought they could potentially grow by 50%, or even double their size in short order. As Adam said, they sought more concrete data to answer the question: “How high is up? What should they expect going forward?”
Given their hypothesis, work by the BANC team was a market sizing revelation. The analysis found that IMD was about the right size. That is, the market profile, demand projections, and key contributing factors did not indicate big untapped potential.
The insight helped ground IMD Guest House’s future in reality. Based on the findings, they could confidently plan to stay in the current facility, and plan for what the scale of growth should be. Accurate market sizing was critical, as they could not move forward with their strategic plan until this one key step was completed.
BANC recommendations are supporting current lease negotiations, including discussions of extensions and more flexibility to upgrade and improve the space. Following expense planning to support the lease, IMD Guest House will move onto funding and planning for capital improvements.
Unique value of working with BANC
When asked to comment on the unique value of working with BANC, Adam highlighted the rich diversity of a dedicated team that brought together the right mix of experience and industry expertise specific to the needs of IMD Guest House: “I did not anticipate we would get a team of people who were so interested, so motivated, and who had really relevant experience. It was really something how people were so focused, had so much capability, and brought so much insight. I had high expectations, and they did more and better than I expected.”
BANC consultants had the skill to do primary research, reaching out to people at hospitals, social workers, etc. They brought an outside perspective to frame the issue, ask the right questions, assimilate the responses, and make strong recommendations. They also had rigorous analytic skill and know-how to build and evaluate models.
Adam’s advice for nonprofits considering a pro bono consulting resource like BANC:
- A very specific project is important. Engaging an outside resource must start with a specific ask.
- Try to be specific on the question you are asking and why. The quality of the report and recommendation depends on how prepared and disciplined you are as a client.
- Have a good sense of what you want as a result as a deliverable to get best quality output.
- Be prepared to engage. The team, or any talented consultant, will start working immediately—so your team needs to be ready. Your team must match their sense of urgency and be ready to supply the information, support, and outreach help to get the project done. It’s really worth it to get the greatest benefit from their expertise.
Adam also had observations for Booth grads considering being consultants:
“If you are interested, but maybe haven’t done consulting before, it’s a good way to do a consulting project without taking on classic consulting lifestyle. It’s a great way to get involved with nonprofit work and get connected to a world that is different than what you’d do on a day-to-day basis. It’s also a great opportunity to be exposed to new industries, new subject matter, and issues you otherwise wouldn’t.”
And, as BANC project leader, Robin Simon summed it up: “If you want a meaningful way to get better connected in the Booth alumni network while also giving back to the community, then BANC is for you. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people who share the Booth experience, but come from a wide variety of ages, industries, functions and backgrounds.”
To learn more about IMD Guest House, please visit the organization’s website.
Illuminating a Path to Sustainability for a Mental Health Program
Thresholds help people with mental health and substance use conditions reclaim their lives. Their unique approach: clients don’t come to them, Thresholds’ teams go into the community and meet people where they are. BANC consultants were brought in to analyze program financials and illuminate a path to profitability. Click here for a summary of the project.
Thresholds offers more than 80 percent of its services in a community-based setting, working on skills, clinical interventions, and recovery to help individuals live independent lives in their own neighborhoods. By improving accessibility to services, and removing social exclusion barriers, the approach makes a measurable impact: last year, Thresholds delivered more than 500,000 hours of care and support, serving 7,715 adults and youth.
Founded in 1959, Thresholds provides 30 innovative programs at more than 75 locations in the greater Chicago area. Services include assertive outreach, case management, housing, employment, education, psychiatry, primary care, substance use treatment, and research.
Thresholds’ roots are in supporting mental health. Since mental health and substance use conditions often co-exist, they also offered some supplementary programs treating addiction. Recognizing the vast unmet need for people facing both challenges, after many years of consideration, Thresholds launched a Substance Use Treatment expansion in two locations, Blue Island and the west side of Chicago.
The teams at these locations were passionate about the new venture and willing to make a substantial investment, however, they weren’t seeing the progress they needed. The initial approach was not financially sustainable. In fact, they were losing significant amounts of money. The leadership team sought to expand services aligned with private payer reimbursements, which can be up to three times higher than Medicaid reimbursement rates from the State of Illinois. But Thresholds needed help identifying and validating the services, economics and a sustainable path to break even. They also needed strong financial modeling.
Having worked with BANC on a previous project, Threshold leaders knew the strength they could bring to the project. In 2018 Thresholds submitted a BANC application for help with a turnaround strategy for their Substance Use Treatment expansion. Thresholds Controller Tim Lowder became the project point person and helped the BANC team refine scope and gather data with ongoing team meetings.
Working with BANC
BANC’s goal was to analyze the program financials and provide the Board of Directors with clear goals and a path to profitability. The team assembled, kicked off the project, and set out to develop pricing benchmarks, a financial model, and clear recommendations. Led by project leader Debbie Davis, the team included Marc Chernoff, William DeAllaume, Tatjana Gasic and John Ross. The team had the right mix of skills and experience for the project, and as Debbie noted, “everyone also had a personal connection with Thresholds in some way or form. That passion for the mission spurred even more passion for contributing.”
BANC consultants evaluated the current state and profitability of the program to identify drivers and barriers to improving profitability. The team conducted primary and secondary research to define and quantify the market for substance use. They analyzed member data, how members flowed through the patient journey, the services they were using at each step, and how much revenue was generated from each person. With a baseline model for the current state, the BANC team analyzed key drivers and different opportunities to improve. They researched other substance use programs and uncovered their best practices. By interviewing various payers, they collected reimbursement rates for different treatments. The team didn’t stop there; they also looked at actual operations, drilling into the facilities’ operating model to understand where there may be gaps in operational efficiencies. Finally, as the last step, BANC consultants evaluated all their learnings to build the financial model and recommendations.
The final recommendation required rethinking the substance use operating model, and focused on five key performance indicators to reach positive net earnings, including:
- The ratio of group vs individual therapy
- Investment in member acquisition, sales and marketing
- Member engagement
- Ratio of private payers to Medicaid
- Treatment model and capacity of group sessions
BANC provided benchmarks for break-even analysis, a business roadmap, and a marketing roadmap, including specific suggested activities to reach sustainability. The financial model included key assumptions and the ability to do what-if analysis with different scenarios.
Delivering Insights Beyond the Question at Hand
“BANC delivered so much more than we asked for - and didn’t even know that we needed. It was incredible.” ~ Tim Lowder, Thresholds Controller
Rob Miller, Vice President of Strategy & Market Development who joined Thresholds in 2019, was immediately impressed based upon his previous experience on the client side of many biopharma strategy projects with top-tier consulting firms. BANC not only delivered a financial model for a path to sustainability, they went above and beyond, evaluating the broader business, including location, web site, online scheduling, easier member access, clearer promotion of the offering, pricing, and even pictures of other successful offices and organizations. In many ways, these supplemental deliverables were even more valuable to Thresholds.
How was BANC able to deliver so much value? Per Tim and Rob, the team scoped out the work really well. They were staffed with the expertise needed, from marketing, market assessment, and financial modeling to healthcare industry experience. They had quantitative and qualitative expertise, and strong people and listening skills. For example, they interviewed the former CEO of a leading substance use treatment provider and were able to gather key insights into how he was able to successfully scale up. The team exhibited a value that is near and dear to Thresholds – they showed up. The consultants were proactive and engaged, getting into their cars to visit sites and other providers. One example that really stood out: the BANC team took pictures of other facilities (with permission) to highlight that enhanced image and offices would be required to attract members with private payers and a different socio-economic status.
Rob noted, “It’s easy to get excited about a compelling plan and presentation. The real question is: will the organization see it through?” At Thresholds, while the pandemic has slowed them down, they are moving forward with the next steps in the plan. The strategy and recommendations gave them a true North, pointing long term to where they need to be with a clear strategy and the rationale to see it through.
Advice for nonprofit leaders and Booth alumni
The world of nonprofits is getting more complex. Most nonprofits have important strategic questions about new programs and new expansions that deserve this high-quality work to guide the organization. Nonprofits need support and strong minds to help develop strategy, however, they typically don’t have the budget to bring in consultants for a six-figure project. Rob’s advice for other nonprofit leaders: “Instead of trying to answer strategic questions with a small internal team already doing three day-jobs, take the opportunity to have a top tier team come in, scope a project, map talent to your strategic questions, and then deliver a strategy with actionable recommendations. The work is a real gift. If you have this type of question, you are missing a tremendous opportunity if you don’t seek help from BANC.”
Before moving into nonprofit leadership, Rob worked with top-tier strategy consulting firms on quality, resource-intensive consulting projects. He noted, “Being at a local nonprofit that doesn’t have resources to hire big firms, it’s wonderful that you can get every bit of the value of a six-figure project - for free!”
Tim echoed the value in working with BANC: “In the nonprofit world, resources are so limited, having people not only deliver, but deliver additional resources we wouldn’t have found is incredibly valuable.” The statement “doing good is worth doing well,” is one that resonates with Rob. For Booth alumni, his advice: “if you have any urge to do some good, you really need to contact BANC. Take your experience and expertise to support social impact. It’s a unique opportunity in the world of b-school and alumni programs. There are hundreds of non-profits that need your help.”
When Rob sat with the BANC team and BANC co-founder Judy Maley at the Threshold Annual Gala event a few months later, for him, it was the icing on the cake. Seeing their reactions to the stories was touching; the BANC team was part of Thresholds family.
To learn more about Thresholds, please visit the organization’s website.
Client Survey and Program Evaluation for a Business Development Center
With a clear vision, thoughtful groundwork, passionate leaders, and the sound reputation of Chicago Booth as a foundation, Gayle Haller and Judy Maley set out to launch the first round of BANC projects five years ago, in 2015. With help spreading the word about the pilot program from the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation at the University of Chicago, BANC found and confirmed one of its first two clients: the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC). Click here to read a summary of BANC's first project for this organization, and here to read a summary of the second project completed two years later.
When she heard about BANC, Emilia DiMenco, President & CEO at the WBDC recognized the potential value in the opportunity, and wasn’t daunted by being the first project. Working closely with Roxanne Ward, Chief of Staff, the duo came up with several ideas for projects. To optimize strategic alignment and fit for BANC, the team landed on a project that tapped into Booth strengths for market analysis and strategic thinking. BANC consultants were tasked to assess how well the WBDC was meeting the needs of their evolving client base, and identify opportunities to enhance and improve the WBDC’s programs.
The WBDC strengthens women's participation and impact on the economy by providing programs and services to support and accelerate business development and growth. Their work fuels economic growth and builds strong communities by:
- Filling gaps through advisory services, with 6,500+ hours of business consulting in FY20
- Fueling plans with capital through placement of debt and equity, and direct lending, with $1.9 million in capital infused into the community in FY20
- Certifying women-owned businesses to bid on contracts, and bringing together buyers and sellers, helping clients win $15 million in federal and corporate contracts in FY20
- Creating and retaining jobs, with 516 jobs in FY20
A nationally recognized leader in the field of women’s economic development, the WBDC was founded in 1986, is headquartered in Chicago, and serves a five-state Midwest region from eight locations in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, and Kansas.
Supporting Women-Owned Companies of All Sizes
To form the BANC team, Gayle and Judy carefully assessed the skills required to support the project objectives, and selected individuals who closely matched the unique needs, while providing a diverse range of perspectives and experience. The team included five consultants and a project leader, Evan Trent. With deep professional expertise across domains including marketing, consumer research, general management, and finance, the group was comfortable with large data sets, designing surveys, conducting interviews, and developing insights.
As it grew, the WBDC served a wider spectrum of women-owned companies across industries, size and scale. To understand client needs and evaluate the value and impact of the WBDC’s services, the BANC team started with a large-scale email survey to clients certified as Women’s Business Enterprises. With hundreds of responses from engaged clients, the survey pointed to high-level themes, as well as specific feedback on the type of content that would be most valuable, and how, when, and how often clients wanted content delivered.
Based on the preliminary findings, the team then created a qualitative interview guide to dig deeper. They provided criteria for the type of clients they wanted to talk to in person to further validate needs and refine thinking about different unique segments. While fielding the emailed survey, the team also reviewed the website and marketing materials to see how the WBDC projects itself to the market. The interviews would capture the client perspective; that is, how the messaging and value proposition were reflected in how clients experience it. In the conversations the team explored what the WBDC means to the client, the nature of their relationship, perception as a trusted partner, gaps and opportunities in the WBDC’s education programs, and more. The BANC team conducted 12 in-depth interviews, working in pairs, and shared their insights and learnings with the team to help formulate recommendations for improving the content of the WBDC’s workshops and offerings.
Supported by a wealth of new primary research data, the BANC team brought an objective perspective to identify unique segments within the WBDC’s client base. By assessing client needs based on different characteristics of the client organizations, the BANC team was able to gain new understanding of specific needs associated with different types of organizations. After considering different segmentation options, the team landed on the key finding: there was a vast difference between $1M and $10M businesses, marked by very different needs and values.
Smaller organizations getting off the ground were very actively engaged with the WBDC and found it very helpful. General business and best practice support met their needs. They didn't need industry specific content. However, the larger the businesses, the lower the perception of value delivered by the WBDC. As businesses got larger, they valued the WBDC certification but had outgrown other resources, leading to a more transactional relationship. As project manager, Evan summed it up, “the key questions became: how does the WBDC stay relevant as clients propel from small to larger scale organizations? How do they provide day-to-day value for more established businesses?”
As a result, BANC recommended that the WBDC view their clients in two distinct segments, offering new services to grow along with its clients, with education and support to meet needs that matured as businesses grew larger. More specifically, they had an opportunity to evolve to meet the needs of the higher end of the segment ($5M+) to better support the growing client base. Based on the research, conversations, and industry experience, the team proposed ideas for services the WBDC could offer to larger organizations, such as group purchasing vendor relationships, support for complex banking relationships, and audit service information. Today, the WBDC offers unique education and support to address challenges faced by startup and emerging businesses, as well as separate, distinct services that help established women-owned businesses grow and thrive.
Impactful Work, Recommendations and Process
The WBDC was very excited by the recommendations from the BANC team. The insights enhanced focus on certified women’s business owners and the need to leverage and build the relationships. The work also validated and confirmed thinking to move the organization and board forward.
The WBDC appreciated the result of the project—and found the process of working with BANC to be both productive and rewarding. As a nonprofit, they acknowledge that they couldn’t afford to buy the quality of work delivered by the BANC team.
Emilia commented on the unique value of working with BANC: “The BANC work was all about us—helping us to achieve our mission. With a dedicated pool of sharp minds, and a skill set uniquely driven by and matched to project requirements, the work helped us have greater clarity, focus, and buy-in on priorities. I don’t believe we could have moved forward with the same pace and confidence without recommendations from the BANC team.”
Roxanne highlighted the strengths of the team: “Having a team of dynamos with varying perspectives was unparalleled. The BANC team brought competency beyond compare, professionalism, and dogged determination to plan, schedule and keep to the schedule. They appeared to enjoy and truly invest in what they were trying to do.”
A BANC consultant on the WBDC project and a BANC Steering Committee member, Sujatha Shenoy added, “I believe our work with the WBDC really shows how BANC added significant value to a nonprofit. BANC consultants came in as outsiders and were able to get the businesses to talk to us in a frank manner. We had the bandwidth to interview a broad cross section of the WBDCs clients. They trusted that their comments were confidential and could tell BANC things they weren't able to tell the WBDC directly.”
Enhancing How the WBDC Prioritizes Volunteer Resources
The WBDC is fortunate—many people want to work with their clients, and they receive regular offers from volunteers who want to support their mission. They receive far more offers than they can accept.
The experience with BANC helped the WBDC appreciate that there are volunteers that can provide deep business value, without burdening the organization. It helped their leaders identify more effective ways to screen potential volunteers. As a result: they are more thoughtful and intentional about finding the right opportunity and right people to do it. And, they are able to optimize time and resources by turning down offers that aren’t the right fit.
Advice for Nonprofits
Emilia and Roxanne shared their tips for nonprofits who may be considering pro bono consulting resources. Their top recommendation: “Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity. There is no downside; it’s incomparable and invaluable.” They also highlighted a few additional things to know:
- It’s not hard to bring BANC on board. While you may think it’s necessary to invest a lot of time onboarding and supporting the team, they don’t require a lot. BANC does an incredible job matching the project needs to the skills of the project team, and offers an abundance of talent specific to project needs that minimizes the onboarding.
- The model is seamless and easy. BANC projects are led by project leaders who move work forward, supported by a clear agenda with a strong cadence of meetings and project management. Dedicated hours are given to the project, and they stay on target to the timeline with a definite start and stop. BANC consultants are accomplished professionals who want to do this. They aren’t doing this to pad their resume.
- Outside business experts can help. Nonprofit leaders shouldn’t view bringing in consultants as a weakness. Consultants and people outside your space can bring skills and perspective to help clarify and solve real nonprofit issues. Trust that they can bring unique expertise and a passion to help you refine and achieve your goals.
Back to BANC, Again and Again
With 24 completed projects, 132 consultants, and delivered services that equate to $2 million of value, BANC is going strong. Consultants seek to work on multiple projects, and nonprofits seek BANC work, again and again.
“For Booth alumni with a passion for social enterprise, BANC provides a truly unique opportunity to get involved. You meet and bond with a diverse group of Booth alumni over a shared purpose and goal, collaborate closely with nonprofit leaders, and get hands on with day-to-day decision making. The experience can complement participation on boards or executive coaching, and be rewarding for the relationships you build and the tangible value you deliver to the client.”
- Evan Trent, Project Leader
WBDC was so delighted with the process and results, they sought BANC for a second, more quantitative project. In 2017, BANC helped the WBDC assess and recommend ways to expand its direct lending program. The new team reviewed the WBDC’s current lending program and operations and assessed the structure and process required to become a Small Business Administration (SBA) micro lender. As a result, the team confirmed that the WBDC should do it, and how, including helping get the WBDC Board more comfortable with the regulations to become a lender as a community development financial institution.
“The formation of BANC is a real boon for the nonprofit world. After each project, it was so rewarding to celebrate with the BANC team and see how engaged and genuinely happy the consultants were with the contributions they made.”
“If BANC would do it, we would ask them to work with us every year—and could keep them busy for the next 10 years.”
New Financial System for a Workforce Development Agency
Maria Kim, CEO of Cara, was in the right place at the right time. As a Chicago Booth alum and nonprofit leader, Maria was working closely with the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation when she was presented an opportunity to initiate a project with the newly formed Booth Alumni Nonprofit Consultants (BANC). Taking a chance as one of the first BANC projects would ultimately help build a foundation that today strengthens and supports Cara’s ability to deliver on its mission. Click here for a summary of the project.
Connecting to the mission: Delivering jobs to develop hope, build self-esteem—and transform lives
With a laser sharp focus on unlocking the power and purpose in communities to create real and lasting success, Cara helps transform people’s lives. Since 1991, Cara has helped people affected by poverty build the skills and confidence needed to get and keep good jobs. Cara produces hundreds of jobs each year for people affected by poverty, and often the challenges of recovery, domestic violence, episodic homelessness, and incarceration. Through jobs, they help instill a positive outlook that helps people unlock a sense of hope and build self-esteem. Families become stronger, relationships are healed, and communities become more vibrant. Today, the support and services of Cara are in greater demand than ever before.
Finding the right project to make the endeavor worthwhile was not without challenges on both sides. For Cara, Maria needed to identify a defined project and outcome that could be completed by outside resources in a short, time-bound span, while optimizing the potential insights and value, and limiting the burden on the Cara team and resources. BANC leaders needed to identify work that could concretely add value while providing meaning for the volunteers.
At the time, Maria had been running Cara for a year, and recognized their financial systems were fragmented and didn’t meet all of their needs. With multiple corporate structures and workflows, all accounts receivable, accounts payable and finance processes would eventually need to move to a new platform. Given Booth’s strengths and expertise, this was the basis of the right project – something the team could quickly assess, bring unmatched experience and best practices from the private sector, and provide value right away.
The Chicago Booth BANC team was asked to assist Cara with the documentation and examination of existing financial workflows, in preparation for an eventual bid for a new system. Maria wanted them to think about Cara as an enterprise, and identify what the financial system should look like, including integrating the flows to determine the ideal state and inform the RFP. The team would document the current state financial processes, create high-level requirements for a new system and recommend potential systems to consider.
The BANC team was very well matched to the project needs, with five consultants who all had backgrounds in systems or process improvement. From the kickoff to final presentation, the project took about six months, with the active work taking four months. The BANC project leader, Marc Krohn, had a background in financial systems and had done work like this for his company, so was confident in the value he and the team could deliver on this project. What Marc didn’t expect was the deep connection he made with the Cara mission.
Equipping people with skills to secure and keep a job is core to Cara’s mission, and Maria wanted BANC consultants to view the work first hand. BANC consultants were invited to participate in Cara’s daily morning session, Motivations, in which all Cara staff and clients meet in a large room to share struggles and successes, and learn from each other’s experiences. Marc noted, “It was such an inspiring way to get the day started. The experience was extremely moving and gave the team a great perspective on the organization.”
Project Work and Impact
The team conducted a number of current state process discovery sessions with the CFO, Controller, and other members of the organization. To meet the needs of the Cara staff, everyone made themselves available for a series of workshops during one week. After gathering the data from the workshops, the consultants split up, looked at the data, drafted process maps, and then got back together to hash out findings and recommendations. Out of those sessions, the BANC team finalized the process maps, and identified a number of pain points with the current processes. They showed what worked, what wasn’t working, and what could be made more cost efficient. The team also reviewed software packages used by nonprofits.
Based on the analysis, the consultants developed a list of business requirements for Cara to incorporate into an RFP, including system-level process improvements and must-have high-level system requirements. BANC laid out a roadmap and list of next step recommendations for Cara to use to secure a new financial system. BANC concluded that because Cara had a small finance staff it would be hard for them to take on a huge project, so they recommended finding a simple and straightforward solution that already worked with Cara’s central tracking system, Salesforce. The BANC project leader connected Cara with his contact at Salesforce to recommend systems that could be easily integrated. All basic needs and requirements for the new financial system were mapped out, ready for Cara to follow going forward.
While Cara didn’t pursue the new system right away, when they did a couple years ago, the information from the BANC project provided much of the information they needed for the RFP that they used to secure the platform, FinancialForce. By being opportunistic with the BANC opportunity and resources they had at the time, they were able to streamline a complicated process they knew they would need downstream.
Advantages of Working with BANC
When asked about the advantages of working with BANC, Maria highlighted the team of global executives with representatives across multiple verticals, geographies, cultural competencies, and credentials, along with diversity of thought. The team brought experience, perspective, and a lens that would be difficult finding anywhere else.
Her advice to nonprofits considering this type of pro bono consulting work: “Really be clear about what success looks like for you—what is the deliverable, what is the outcome at the end. And treat the project as though you are a paid customer. Study what they say they can and cannot do. It’s ok to ask questions, and say no.”
Advice from project leader, Marc, zeroed in on a key to the project’s success: “To achieve the full benefit of the consulting work, it is critical to make sure the nonprofit has capacity to dedicate time to work with the BANC team.”
Making Time to Build the Foundation
In the past five years, Cara has grown dramatically. Combined with the current challenges of the pandemic and call for change in addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion, it is vitally critical for Cara to have a solid, enterprise financial system to support their work. By investing in the mission when they had time to dedicate to the project, they were able to proactively tackle a foundational nuts-and-bolts project with streamlined resources that support financial stability and connection.
“Investments like this help create the outcome – but can be easy to forget or ignore. In order to do the necessary blocking and tackling to drive the mission, especially now, services like these are needed more than ever. It’s a huge gift that supports our ability to do this kind of work.” ”
– Maria Kim, CEO, Cara
KPI’s and Data Dashboard for a Healthcare Advocacy Group
Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness brings Americans to eye care, touching millions of lives each year providing outreach to people at the highest risk of vision loss, quality vision screenings for children, access to professional eye care for low income families, and ongoing research and advocacy to fight blindness and save sight. With annual spending of more than nine million dollars, a robust network of contributors, and a vast network of partners and stakeholders, Prevent Blindness and its affiliates sought a way to better capture and highlight high-level progress through data-driven metrics. For an objective perspective and strategic expertise, Prevent Blindness sought help from BANC. Click here for a summary of the project.
The BANC team worked with Karen Hartman, vice president and CFO, and the Prevent Blindness national office and its affiliates to identify the most meaningful mission-impact indicators. The new data dashboard would provide a graphic snapshot of the growth and impact of programs to a variety of stakeholders. The primary objective was to provide an at-a-glance visualization of the indicators and other strategic data to quickly convey organizational status and priorities. The indicators are data-driven quantifiable measures that reflect the critical success factors of the organization.
“Nonprofit organizations are notoriously under-resourced. The BANC team assisted our organization in providing our stakeholders with mission-impact indicators in a clear, consistent and concise way. Without access to their talent, this project would still be on our wish list. As a fellow Booth alum, their professionalism and the quality of deliverables was exactly what I expected. Our organization is grateful to all involved in the BANC program and will definitely take advantage of this resource in the future.”
- Karen Hartman, Vice President and CFO, Prevent Blindness
Composed of six BANC consultants with diverse backgrounds, experience and expertise, the team conducted research to determine the appropriate metrics, the optimal frequency for tracking and evaluating impact, and the effectiveness of the metrics to guide program interventions of the national office and affiliate locations. The team used a multi-pronged approach for a comprehensive assessment.
- Interviews. The team conducted a series of interviews with personnel among Board, staff and affiliate stakeholders throughout the organization. The interviews asked about current use of the data collection system, including barriers to usage. They also asked about data and systems they were using that were not being provided by the national office.
- Existing data sources. The BANC team collected existing materials such as strategic plans, 990 Reports, and CDC Public Health Service Drivers. Some BANC team members interacted with the current system used by the national office and affiliates to assess its capabilities.
- Industry best practices. To obtain insight into how data might be displayed and organized, the BANC team investigated dashboard implementations at a number of national healthcare advocacy organizations similar to Prevent Blindness.
As a result of the research, the BANC team recommended critical data elements to meet the needs of both the national office and affiliates. The list of fields included values, frequency of collection, and data type (numeric, text, etc.). The team emphasized the importance of having a clearer definition of data, the ability to see data trends, the need to have an easier-to-use system, and the need to define, quantify and measure impact that can iteratively lead to better focus on resource allocation to improve programming and services offered.
The team also offered guiding principles to be used in the development of a data dashboard:
- Use of concrete, well-defined data and metrics that either directly address or provide a pathway to address key shortcomings and themes identified in stakeholder interviews
- Data aligned with identified program categories
- A “less is more” approach with focus on no more than 3 -5 measures for a given area
- Use of monthly, or at minimum quarterly, data to enable trending
The team provided a mock-up of a data dashboard that could be shared with potential software vendors who could implement the system. The BANC team identified recommendations for next steps as well as areas for future research.
“Partnering with Prevent Blindness on developing their data dashboard was a great experience for me and the BANC team! We got to interact with a large group of stakeholders to really understand their needs for the project and deliver something that was very useful to the client, who was very responsive and a pleasure to work with. The project work naturally fell into specific areas so that team members could contribute in ways that they found interesting and significant. And right at the end of the project, we were able to celebrate the arrival of a new baby to a team member’s family!”
- Robin Simon, BANC Project Leader
With the launch of the new Prevent Blindness website in May 2020, the organization has identified a dashboard vendor and will look to include the dashboard on the website by the end of the year.
Evaluation of Service Area and Operational Model for a Food Pantry
The coronavirus pandemic changed how we live and work—essentially overnight. For Loaves & Fishes Community Services, a Naperville-based not-for-profit and an essential service, it was a perfect storm of market forces: demand for food grew dramatically and food supply decreased due to supply chain interruptions. On top of that, due to COVID social distancing requirements, the labor force had to be reduced by 80%, and the in-person shopping model was no longer feasible. Loaves & Fishes did more than simply adapt, they transformed their operations to offer curbside pickup, expanded their market, and increased service to more than 1,000 families per week, while remaining true to their mission of providing healthy meals. Click here for a summary of the project.
Founded in 1984, Loaves & Fishes provides healthy food and impactful programs to promote self-sufficiency, serving DuPage County and portions of Will County in suburban Chicago. In 2019, its food pantry distributed 4 million pounds of food to approximately 5,800 households.
Pre-COVID, people shopped in the market, much like a grocery store. There were typically dozens shopping, and often 30-40 people in the waiting room, in addition to 50–75 volunteers and staff in the building. Within days of the shelter-in-place order in Illinois, Loaves & Fishes shifted from a client-choice shopping model to a drive-up model. To serve more people in less time, using less manpower, food is placed directly in the trunk. Each family receives between 100-150 pounds of food, including fresh produce, dairy, dry goods, and meat. Loaves & Fishes also broadened its market beyond DuPage County. They did not want to turn down anyone in crisis who had need, so they moved to serving everyone who could get there – no matter where they were from.
Coincidentally, Loaves & Fishes was actively working with BANC during this period. The BANC project team wrapped up its work in April 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was hitting its peak in Illinois. While certainly not anticipated, the foundational strategy and analytic work by the BANC team helped support rapid decision making, based on sound and meaningful insights.
In short, in fall of 2019, Mike Havala, CEO of Loaves & Fishes, kicked off a project with BANC to focus on two issues to support their new three-year strategic plan and address an increase in unmet need:
- Potential expansion of the geographic service area
- Evaluation of operational model and facilities to address space constraint.
Loaves & Fishes was at an inflection point. They faced a growing market need for food assistance with almost 20% of the DuPage County population considered low income/in poverty—an 82 percent increase since 2000. The nonprofit wanted to leverage their team, supply network, volunteer base, and infrastructure to expand their reach and service more clients with unmet need.
Like many nonprofits, Loaves & Fishes had anecdotal info, but struggled with getting data. They wanted an objective study based on more than gut and instinct alone. BANC’s access to information and analytics was a big draw. They also felt that BANC offered a rare opportunity to access the quality of people and minds characterized by Booth alumni. Working with the BANC team increased the credibility of the recommendations, supporting conversations with funders as well as boosting confidence for taking the next steps.
For the analysis of the geographic service area, the BANC project team provided market estimates showing that Aurora, Bolingbrook and Joliet were areas with high unmet need. Since Loaves & Fishes removed its service area boundaries, this demand has been confirmed, with an increased number of clients coming from Aurora.
To optimize the operational model, the BANC team recommended a hub and spoke model. A new hub would allow Loaves & Fishes to continue to utilize its existing volunteer base and food recovery routes, and minimize transit time to new spokes potentially located in Aurora and other neighboring cities. A new hub would also provide the space to reach more people through new channels such as online ordering. While not offered by Loaves & Fishes today, online ordering has the potential to become an important way to serve clients going forward. In a recent survey, 45% of Loaves & Fishes clients said they would use online shopping with curbside pickup going forward, making the hub and spoke model even more applicable going forward.
Havala expressed great appreciation for the work and interaction with the BANC team. He recently shared his insights for Booth alumni who may want to get involved with BANC, as well as nonprofits who may want to apply for support from BANC. The common thread for both, simply: Do it!
- His advice for Alumni: “In talking with team members, I got the sense it’s a win-win for everybody. It may seem hard to find time, but you will find ways to do it. The similarities from the for-profit world are incredibly applicable. By molding what you know to the nonprofit world, you can provide great value in delivering social impact."
- His advice for Nonprofits: “When you have a project, make sure you are thoughtful about the project and scope. It needs to be high-enough level to be a good fit. Like anything else you get out of it what you put into it.” Havala highlighted a few key factors that made working with BANC a success. First, it’s critical to have staff available to support questions and participate in meetings. View the project as an investment and make sure your team can put into it what it’s worthy of. Assign a clear point person. And, like any kind of 6-month project, it's important to keep momentum going—to turn around questions in a timely fashion and be responsive throughout the project."
What’s next for Loaves & Fishes? After the BANC team’s board meeting presentation, the leadership team immediately drew up next steps. These are already in process—they are not waiting for the pandemic to disappear. Loaves & Fishes convened a facility committee composed of a group of volunteers and board members with specialized backgrounds in facilities and logistics.
“The bottom line is that it is all systems go. We are grateful for the contributions and generosity of the BANC team. By moving forward on the recommendations with such a sense of urgency, I hope the BANC team feels the satisfaction and reward of their participation!”
- Mike Havala, CEO of Loaves & Fishes
|About Face Theatre||Inner Voice|
|Ada S. McKinley Community Services||Leukemia Research Foundation
|Apna Ghar||Loaves & Fishes Community Services|
|Between Friends Chicago||Margaret's Village|
|Cara Chicago||Mudlark Theater|
|Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago||NAMI Dupage|
|CHANGE Illinois||The National Kidney Foundation of Illinois|
|Chicago Children’s Theater||North Lawndale Employment Network|
|Chicago Debates||One Million Degrees|
|Chicago Foundation for Women||Prevent Blindness
|Classical Music Chicago||Project Exploration
|College Bound Opportunities||Serenity House Counseling Services|
|Comer Education Campus||Streetwise|
|Glen Ellyn Food Pantry||Thrive Chicago
|Have Dreams||University of Chicago Women’s Board|
|Healthcare Alternative Systems, Inc.||Urban Autism Solutions
|Housing Opportunities & Maintenance for the Elderly (H.O.M.E)||Urban Prep Academies
|Hyde Park Neighborhood Club||Women’s Business Development Center
|Illinois Medical District Guest House|