6 Tips for Better Strategic Planning


Pat Richter has been affiliated with the Support Center since 2002 in many capacities, including as a volunteer facilitator of workshops, affiliated consultant, C.O.O. interim, and most recently the Interim Director of Consulting. She consults (PRQuickhelp) nonprofits & foundations both large and small. To Learn more, please visit supportcenteronline.org.

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Strategic Planning

Written by Pat Richter

Very few nonprofit leaders and Board members enjoy strategic planning, but thank goodness there are a few brave and creative people that are energized and excited by the process!

Strategic planning can be like going to the dentist; no one wants to go, in spite of feeling so much better afterwards.

Two or three year plans are the trend now because the environment in which nonprofits operate is changing so quickly. The Support Center for Nonprofit Management/Partnership in Philanthropy helps many nonprofits with strategic planning, with some investing months in the process and others dedicating a one day staff/Board retreat to banging out a plan.  Either approach can work depending on the size and complexity of the organization.

Whether your organization is taking a long or short path to strategic planning, remember to think and discuss the following key areas to insure a well-rounded and practical plan:

  1. Check in with the mission, vision, and values of the organization.  Are they all still relevant and inspiring?
  2. Review programs to insure they support the mission, are sustainable, and have impact.
  3. Assess the Board and its embrace of its roles and responsibilities. Refer to helpful materials from BoardSource and Independent Sector.
  4. Check in with infrastructure – does the staff have the facilities, equipment, and supplies that it needs? Are the staff organized in a way that makes sense? Is program space adequate? Do IT, finance, and HR functions serve the organization adequately?
  5. Most nonprofits can’t function without partners. Sometimes the biggest partner is government, or client referral sources, or schools, or in-kind service providers. Review how your organization selects and manages its partnerships.
  6. Assess financial sustainability.  What has been the revenue history and what are the expected trends going forward?  What should the Board and leadership focus on to insure financial health in the future?

A small arts organization embarked on strategic planning and prioritized locating street level office and program space in spite of this goal seeming impossible over its previous ten years. The timing seemed right, and by working with their partners, it came to fruition!

If your organization is interested in strategic planning, contact Carolyn Champ at [email protected].

Do We Really Need A Tech Committee?

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Jason Hutchins, President (Managing Principle) founded Nonprofit Solutions Network
in 1998 to help nonprofits increase capacity, lower costs, and improve their overall operation through the use of technology. Learn more about them at www.nonprofitsolutions.net.

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Tech Icon

Written by Jason Hutchins 

In many nonprofit organizations, hardware and software is only replaced when it becomes unresponsive, a funder requires a type of report the current system can’t produce, or employees use applications they’ve discovered off the IT department’s radar (often on a personal smartphone). Meanwhile, the technology landscape has changed.  There have been major advances in cloud computing, the cost of bandwidth and data storage has fallen, nonprofit specific technology grants are on the rise, as are the availability of numerous apps for record keeping and reporting.  At the same time, requirements for nonprofits have increased and become more complex, leaving many to feel they are ‘behind the times’ even when implementing new technology.

A simple way to make IT spending strategic rather than reactive and to select technology that works well for your staff is to have an internal technology committee.  How can you possibly ask staff to participate in another meeting?  Make it a working lunch or mid-morning coffee break meeting. There is someone motivated and interested in technology in every department who will want to be part of the conversation.

Meet regularly (bi-monthly or quarterly) to share observations about what’s working well and what’s not. During the first meeting, it is a good idea to create a shared central document that details the department/function areas that are represented, contains an inventory of which databases are in use for accounting, donors, programs, marketing, etc., and for how long (how long what?). Discuss staff satisfaction and make note of known performance issues. This will help identify the need for support and staff training, as well as be  a jumping off point for brainstorming solutions and creating an action plan.

  • Properly budget and fundraise for technology
  • Find opportunities to cut expenses and receive technology grants
  • Keep an eye out for advances in technology to improve operations
  • Better define operational and capital costs
  • Help your grants department make the case to funders and agencies to pay for technology and training
  • Evaluate a potential technology’s benefits for your organization and the complexity and time to implement it?
  • Create staff buy in for implementing new technology and business process changes
  • Develop contingency plans for obstacles during implementation
  • Identify IT related organizational risks and update IT personnel policies

A working technology committee fosters collaboration and is well worth the time. For more ideas on how to implement a technology committee or other organizational changesvisit the Support Center | Partnership in Philanthropy website or contact Carolyn Champ at [email protected].

Tell Us About Your Earned Income Strategies!


There is growing interest in the nonprofit sector to learn about how organizations can diversify their revenue sources and generate more earned income. Recognizing this trend, the Support Center and Inspiring Capital are collaborating to conduct this survey about the current state of earned income strategies across their shared networks of nonprofits and funders. This survey will result in a landscape scan of how nonprofits are generating earned income and an understanding of what obstacles and needs exist in the sector. Whether you represent a nonprofit or a funding organization, consider this broad definition of earned income from Grantspace: “Earned income is revenue generated from the sale of goods, services rendered, or work performed.


Click here if you’re a nonprofit organization.

Click here if you’re a funding organization.

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Survey led in partnership with Inspiring Capital.


Smart Choices: How to Hire the Right People

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Judy Lindenberger is President of The Lindenberger Group,
an award-winning human resources firm.
Learn more about them at www.lindenbergergroup.com.




Written by Judy Lindenberger 

Since 1986, the Support Center | Partnership in Philanthropy has been dedicated to improving our society by increasing the effectiveness of nonprofit leaders and their organizations. As a human resources consultant who helps nonprofit organizations, I have learned from research and experience that it is important to “get the right people on the bus.”  

In the best-selling book, Good to Great, Jim Collins writes, “Those who build great companies understand that the ultimate throttle on growth for any great company is not markets, or technology, or competition, or products. It is one thing above all others: the ability to get and keep enough of the right people.”

To hire the right people, you must develop effective selection skills. Conducting a job interview looks easier than it is. According to studies based on the employment records of thousands of management and line employees, little or no correlation exists between the “positive reports” that emerge from the typical job interview and the job performance of the candidates who receive those glowing reports. However, this correlation goes up dramatically whenever interviewing becomes a structured, well-planned processone that’s integrated into an organization’s overall staffing practices.

Over the years, I have conducted numerous interviews and trained managers on effective interviewing and selection techniques. Following are a few tips to help you get started.


  • Know what you need – Determine the key competencies required for the job before you interview a candidate. Write a job description and ask your team for feedback. Create a list of questions for the interview. For example, if you are hiring a CFO, create questions that will help you determine how the person keeps up with nonprofit accounting rules and how they manage confidential information.
  • Advertise the position – Don’t just advertise in your local newspaper. Cast your net even further! Put the position on your website. Let your network know you are hiring. Use social media such as LinkedIn and Facebook.
  • Look at what works – What personality traits make someone a good fit for your culture? Is your organization laid back or formal? Do people work 9 to 5 or around the clock? Ask questions that will help you determine whether the candidate will adapt well to your organization’s culture.
  • Schedule multiple interviews – Conduct 15-minute telephone interviews to screen out inappropriate candidates. Schedule the staff members who will work one-on-one with the candidate to interview the top candidates. Ask for their feedback.


  • Ask the right questions – Dig deep to find out whether candidates have the key competencies required for the job and will be a fit with your culture. Create questions that will give you the answers you need. If time management skills are required for instance, you might want to ask: “What is your method for organizing your day?” or “Tell me about a time when you had tight deadlines. What did you do?” Compare what each candidate says to what you think is an A+ answer.
  • Close your mouth and open your ears – Too often interviewers turn an interview into a “grocery list” of their wants and needs. Ask focused questions, and then listen carefully. Take notes.
  • Go with your gut – If you did your homeworkthat is, determined the key job requirements and asked questions that would ascertain the skills requiredthe hiring decision should be a natural next step.
  • Organize your notes – After conducting all the interviews, I recommend using a simple grid to help choose the best candidate. Simply put the names of each candidate horizontally and put the job requirements or key competencies vertically. Then make up a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest rating. Rate each candidate from 1 to 5 on each of the job requirements or competencies. The person with the highest ratings is probably your best choice.

Above all else – Consider input from each of the interviewers, and trust your collective judgment. Put aside any and all stereotypes, and select the best person for the job. 

The Support Center | Partnership in Philanthropy offers change consulting services here in the greater New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut area. To find out more about the Support Center’s services visit our website or contact Carolyn Champ at [email protected].

May 4th Impact Investment Gathering

Thank you all who attended the New Jersey Impact Investing Working Group’s inaugural gathering! Since 2014, the Support Center and Rutgers Business School joined the Office of Faith Based Initiatives in a collaborative effort to build a pipeline of capital for New Jersey social entrepreneurs. The goal was to create a series of “impact investment gatherings” to highlight investment opportunities to for-profit and nonprofit social ventures that are generating financial and social returns. For more background on the initiative, please click here.

On May 4th, five NJ based social enterprises, representing innovative and diverse ventures, had the opportunity to present their business cases and the incredible impact they are having in their communities. The featured social ventures included: AgriArk, Great Goods Thrift Store, P3 OrganixRoebling Kitchen, and Soups and Sweets. Below you’ll find a few of the various perspectives represented at the forum:

Attendees learned about investment, funding, and support opportunities available to help these enterprises increase scale, serve more people and create social change. It also offered the chance to network with other organizations and enterprises addressing a wide range of social and environmental issues throughout NJ.

We look forward to making this a regular convening to continue growing this community. Stay tuned for our future 2016 events. In the meantime, please enjoy the photos captured below!



New Practice Area: The 2016 NJ Impact Investing & Social Entrepreneurship Kickoff

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Over the past few years, we have realized that the social sector is evolving with a need for greater accountability, clarity around impact and a movement to a more diverse financial base. Within this space, we have seen enterprising nonprofits develop new business and earned income strategies and also make great strides in understanding how they are making the world a better place. We’re thinking of this as a loosely defined “impact investment” space where impact-oriented funders and donors can connect with high-impact organizations. On Friday, February 26th over 60 social entrepreneurs gathered for an all-day kick-off event for the 2016 NJ Social Entrepreneurship Kick-Off. The meeting opened with an overview of resources currently available to social entrepreneurs.

  • Nancy Eberhardt of Pro Bono Partnership spoke of the legal resources available and commonly encountered questions including: tax issues, for-profit vs. nonprofit structures, guidelines for joint ventures and avoiding conflicts of interest and public support rules.
  • The Support Center alerted participants to upcoming events including the 2016 Social Enterprise Training Series as well as the May 4, 2016 NJ Impact Investment Gathering to be held at Rutgers Business School  in Newark, NJ.
  • Eddie LaPorte, Director of the Office of Faith Based Initiatives, spoke about the state of NJ’s support for development of Social Entrepreneur Ventures (SEVs) to create innovative approaches to address social issues and their upcoming application deadlines.
  • Professor Jeff Robinson of Rutgers Business School led a session on new developments in social enterprise and also spoke about relevant programming with the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development in Newark, NJ.
  • A panel featuring Interfaith Neighbors and the Kula Café; the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey and Soups and Sweets; RISE and the Greater Goods Thrift Store;Prevent Child Abuse NJ and Parent Universe; and Elijah’s Promise and the Better World Market explored the successes and setbacks of new business models.
  • Key points discussed included the tension between an existing organization and a newventure and the allocation of resources, the need for marketing, the role of the board in understanding and supporting a social venture and mission alignment, the (in)ability of nonprofits to invest sweat equity into a social venture and the key role of volunteers to subsidize operations, ethical considerations and when to make the hard choices about keeping a social venture up and running vs. discontinuing the effort.

The afternoon was spent with participants informing the development of the Support Center’s capacity building plans going forward.

Grantmaker Partnerships: The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey


Many grantmakers have a keen understanding of how management and governance issues can affect their grantees’ ability to carry out their missions, and invest in capacity building interventions such as board development, organizational assessments, strategic planning, leadership coaching and other services. The Support Center works with its grantmaker partners, such as the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, to effect organizational change among their portfolio of grantees to maximize the impact of their investment. Our work with nonprofit cohorts offers targeted organizational support; provides opportunities for shared learning around specific issues or organizational challenges, and deepens collaboration and collective impact within a community.

The Support Center has partnered with Horizon Foundation for New Jersey since 2014 to assist NJ-based CBOs with a range of governance and management challenges through 3 to 6 month consulting engagements. The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey builds their work on three key cornerstones: Caring, Creating and Connecting.  Caring: The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey cares about their fellow New Jersey residents. Through relationships with community leaders, they support programs that help everyone manage important health issues.  Connecting: Better health starts with better education. That’s why the Foundation funds programs that make health literacy and education more accessible and easier to understand for everyone.  Creating:  Culture and creativity are essential to the health of New Jersey communities, which is why the Foundation supports arts and cultural programs that entertain, illuminate, and enrich the lives of their fellow New Jersey residents. The capacity building project has enhanced the foundation’s investment in healthy New Jersey communities by improving its grantees’ ability to deliver vital services ranging from free or low-cost healthcare, cancer prevention education, mental health, and substance abuse services.


The Support Center and their consultants are an invaluable tool for small organizations who suffer from the ability to take advantage of the various resources. We are so grateful to Horizon Foundation, the Support Center and Richmond for recognizing our potential and believing in our ability to enrich the lives of those in our community.” LiveSunSmart 


“Let me reiterate LVA’s appreciation for this opportunity and for what we as a group were able to learn and accomplish.”  – Literacy Volunteers 



Client Spotlight: Goddard Riverside (Strategic Planning)



CASE: Goddard Riverside, one of New York City’s leading human service organizations, works to meet people’s basic needs – food, shelter, education – and to bring them together for mutual aid, social action, and to celebrate our richness as a society.  With the support of the Clark Foundation, Goddard partnered with the Support Center throughout 2014-2015 to develop and implement a comprehensive strategic plan. In order to do so, we worked closely with Goddard Riverside’s Executive Director, Stephen Russo and their Board Chair, Betsy Newell.

RESULTS: The result was Goddard’s first agency-wide strategic plan. The Board and staff, with input from the community and its partners, discussed how to build a sustainable plan for the years ahead and reaffirmed the importance of the settlement house philosophy to everything they do. The areas that Goddard addressed through this work with the Support Center included:

  • Commitment to programmatic reach – Ensuring programs are responsive to current and emerging community needs.
  • Governance – Building a dynamic and informed Board of Directors structured and equipped to govern effectively so the agency is better positioned to achieve its mission.
  • Staff leadership – Inspiring and developing all staff to further Goddard Riverside’s mission and exemplify its values.
  • Resource development – Growing sustainable support for all Goddard Riverside endeavors through diverse funding streams and increased visibility.
  • Infrastructure – Ensuring an infrastructure that provides high quality, flexible and sustainable services that support Goddard Riverside and extends its values to all.

The Strategic Plan was approved in the first quarter of 2016 and the Support Center has maintained an ongoing relationship with leadership at Goddard.

VALUES STATEMENT: To achieve their goals, members of Goddard Riverside’s board and staff, drafted a values statement that captured the essence of they were and what they wanted to accomplish. Below is a list of core values that were jointly identified.

  • Community: We believe in nurturing and celebrating community life and supporting connections among neighbors.
  • Fiscal Responsibility:  As responsible stewards, we recognize our duty to safeguard the agency’s substantial resources and to utilize and preserve its assets for current and future generations through sound financial management, by operating within our means, and by ensuring a diversified funding base which is at the core of sustainability.
  • Innovation: We listen and respond to the everyday concerns and issues facing our neighbors. We are a laboratory for new ideas. We continually experiment, learning from our successes and failures.
  • Integrity: Our staff and our board are guided by the highest professional and ethical standards and a rigorous commitment to excellence. We are transparent and accountable to all stakeholders, and we respect the environment and the impact of our operations on it.
  • Leadership: We lead by being open to change and opportunities, staying attuned to the social forces shaping our society and by sharing our learning with others.
  • Lifelong Learning: We believe that a fulfilled life extends beyond the basics of food, clothing and shelter to include opportunities for education, continuing education, cultural enrichment and meaningful interactions with others.
  • Partnership: We work hand-in-hand with people, no matter what their life circumstances, background or age, to achieve the kind of life they want for themselves and their families. Our board and staff work collaboratively and we actively seek out and cultivate partnerships with organizations and individuals who are committed to making a real difference in our community and in the greater social fabric of our city.


Interview with Keith Timko: First 100 Days as CEO


As you may know, the Support Center underwent its own leadership transition with an engaging a new leader, Executive Director, Keith Timko, beginning January 1, 2016. This was a part of a planned succession with Keith taking over as an internal candidate.  As part of the process, the Board conducted an organizational assessment speaking with funders, partners, board members and staff (a true thank you to all who participated in those interviews).  We heard many encouraging words about what we are good at-being a convener of organizations and professional development and change consulting. We are also grateful for feedback around where we can be better.

What are the top 3 goals for the Support Center in 2016? 

Collaboration – We don’t believe in going it alone. On June 15, we plan to host an event called Ahead of the Curve, where we will convene social sector leaders and their partners from public and corporate sectors, to deliberate over the collective challenges we face as a sector and develop solutions and best practices to integrate into the work of our individual organizations.

Communication – As we continue to work with nonprofit partners on efforts ranging from board building to strategic planning, we know there is more that we can do to tell the stories of this work. As nonprofits, we are all in the business of a building a better world together, and the more that we can share our stories-both the successes and the challenges-the stronger we will be. So as we move ahead in 2016, we look forward to telling the stories of how these efforts at building capacity are paying off-or not paying off as cautionary tales for others.

Evaluation – We want to focus more on impact assessment — for our own work and the work of our partners. Understanding the impact of our work and articulating it will be a major goal of 2016. We hope you will stay tuned this year as we tell the stories of our partners and the impact of our work together.

2015 Year-In-Review: Major Accomplishments

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Before we share what our exciting plans for 2016 are,
we would like to thank our donors and partners for the
strong results we had in 2015. With support from donors
large and small in 2015, we are able to continue to provide
workshops, leadership support, and capacity building services.

And with that support, here’s a look at 2015 by the numbers:

  • 126: Organizations received direct support to improve their effectiveness and efficiency.
  • 21: After school organizations working to improve services to kids through a Department of Youth and Community Development Program.
  • 10: Business improvement districts that the Support Center is helping grow their donor base, expand their board and measure their results.
  • 19: Community organizations in Newark, NJ that we are supporting with one-on-one consulting projects.
  • 17: Organizations assisted in understanding the risks of CEO transitions through Executive Search and Transition Management service and Interim Executive Placements.
  • 32: Experienced executives gaining knowledge about the role of an Interim CEO through our Interim Executive Training.
  • 1,650:Executive nonprofit leaders and managers build their knowledge and skills though more than 120 workshops/webinars/panels representing over 600 nonprofit organizations.

Other highlights from 2015:

  • Expanded our work in the sector promoting “organizational redesign” as an option for building strength, voice, and effectiveness in our communities, helping the nonprofit community understand its full-range of options regarding redesign.
  • Increased our efforts to build better governance – increasing Board member’s understanding of redesign options for nonprofit board members and deeping a targeted partnership with BoardSource (Washington, D.C.) to enhance this effort.
  • Increased the number and range of tools and resources for the sector. We utilized our website, e-news, and Journal for Nonprofit Management as vehicles to provide resources and tactics to guide and support boards, leaders of nonprofit organizations, and specialists dedicated to helping nonprofit organizations in their transition, turnaround, and restructuring work.
  • Developed stronger, more engaged working relationships with other providers such as the Human Services Council, Community Resource Exchange, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, the Lawyers Alliance, and Third Sector New England.
  • Developed new working relationships with funders including the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, Small Business Services, and the Victoria Foundation.