The Elizabeth Stone House was no stranger to ESC of New England when the organization reached out for consulting services in 2013. In fact, the catalyst for the nonprofit’s current ESC consulting project–a fundraising effort to support the construction of a large family program center–was due largely in part to the exceptional outcomes of their first engagement with ESC in 2011.
While the residential and family services-centered nonprofit has been established for 40 years, Elizabeth Stone House Director of Development Jim May told us changes over time have made its existence even more imperative to the organization’s client base.
“Our services are no longer an alternative to institutionalization—they’re an alternative to homelessness,” he said.
This shift to such services becoming “an alternative to homelessness,” called for a better understanding of the people his organization serves, Jim said, and ESC’s initial project with the Elizabeth Stone House provided a breakthrough in this regard.
Jim said the 2011 strategic planning project conducted by ESC consultants brought him and his staff to a new level of understanding in terms of their constituencies’ needs. What was revealed may have been overwhelming without the ESC team’s organizational abilities, and the services offered, he said, would have not been attainable for the nonprofit without ESC’s sliding scale pricing.
“We are a small-ish organization with big aspirations,” Jim said. “There is no way to close the gap between size and aspirations without ESC’s affordable assistance.”
A great deal of the strategic plan created in Elizabeth Stone House’s first ESC consulting engagement focused on assessment strategies that would help the organization’s staff, board, donors and volunteers better understand the individuals and families they serve. This type of work required such a high level of structure and attention over two years that it would become the largest project Jim and his staff had ever undertaken before. Jim held that such a comprehensive project relied on the management assistance and knowledge ESC consultants provided to the organization’s staff over the course of the engagement.
“The consultants created a massive list, assigning a timeline to all related tasks,” Jim said. “We didn’t have any staff who’d ever gone through such a huge project, but every staff member was able to benefit and learn how to handle new data, assessments, and the overall implementation plan.”
The Elizabeth Stone House discovered, through working with ESC, that they were in need of a modern evidence-based approach to caring for their constituencies, especially those with mental health and substance abuse issues. For instance, Jim told us, the work done by ESC consultants made possible a new mental health assessment as well as an assessment for the likelihood of relapse among drug abusers, which can be administered at regular intervals to track progress and protect their constituencies’ best interests during the times they are under the organization’s watch.
A product of the ESC-led assessments, Jim said, was a deeper, more personal understanding of the individuals and families his organization serves. With this new understanding came a reinvigorated approach to a problem Elizabeth Stone House was finally ready to face: the replacement of a central building lost to a fire five years before ESC’s initial engagement.
Jim said the internal improvements ESC helped the Elizabeth Stone House make allowed the organization’s vision to be realized in its plans for the new building much more effectively than what had been offered by the previous one. One change the organization has determined is that in order to serve clients effectively the new building would need to be seven times bigger than the previous structure. Thanks to the clarity Elizabeth Stone House had acquired since implementing ESC’s strategic plan in 2011, staff members have been able to determine this and many more details about the new building’s needs; but, because the organization receives fewer tax credits for program space (verses sufficient funds received for residential services), it quickly became clear that the organization’s fundraising efforts would need to be raised to the same level ESC had elevated management to in 2011.
Jim is now working with ESC consultant John Carpenter to improve Elizabeth Stone House’s fundraising abilities. He said one goal is to increase the organization’s capability to solicit major gifts in support of the new building, and, as with the first project, his organization would be unable to reach such a high level of impact without the affordable consulting services ESC offers.
“ESC is an important resource for organizations in our community, and not nearly enough people know about it,” he said.
Whatever the challenge, Jim is convinced that connecting with ESC would garner improvement for any nonprofit in eastern Massachusetts or Rhode Island.
The Elizabeth Stone House’s mission is to serve homeless families and individuals in a goal-oriented, outcome-driven service environment by resolving the issues that made them homeless – domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental illness – so that they can attain and maintain permanent housing, personal safety, and economic stability. If you’d like to learn more about this organization, please visit their website, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-409-5417.
If you’d like your nonprofit to be featured in an upcoming ESC Client Spotlight post, please contact Ali Pickering, ESC of New England Consulting Services Coordinator, at email@example.com or call 617-357-5550.