Free Consulting Helped Roxbury Weston Stabilize and Grow
Facing dropping enrollment and donations, Roxbury Weston Programs, a Weston nonprofit that operates the longest running voluntary educational program in the United States, accessed free consulting services from another nonprofit to create a stabilization and growth strategy.
During the summer of 2009, the Roxbury Weston Preschool was experiencing significant and challenging issues, including low enrollment, lack of donations, little visibility in the community, and outdated marketing strategy, explained Ingrid Mansfield, director of Roxbury Weston Programs
(RoxWes). The valuable education experience was still thriving at the preschool, but our clients and families were slowly disappearing.
In ensuing years, the organizations net assets went negative.
With a degree in education, no money, and no management or marketing experience, I knew I needed professional help to turn things around quickly, but the program didn't have the resources to hire, Mansfield said. I heard of the SOARS 55 Nonprofit Management Consulting Group and decided to give them a call.
Based in nearby Newton, SOAR 55
short for Service Opportunities After Reaching 55is part of a national network that mobilizes adults, age 55 and over, to contribute their skills and experience to help strengthen and expand the capacity of nonprofit and public organizations.
Jud McCew, formerly a college professor, management consultant, and senior executive in professional services, and Jack Gracey, who had served as a human services executive in the medical, public health, and aging sectors, were assigned to the case.
Mansfield met with the two consultants five times during the nine-month engagement. The leadership of the RoxWes board of directors was also involved, meeting with DeCew and Gracey three to four times, in addition to phone and email contact.
DeCew and Gracey got going by seeking to answer the following questions:
- What was the market opportunity for the RoxWes program, i.e., did Westons demographics suggest potential for improving enrollment?
- What did the competitive landscape look like?
- How might that competition compromise the potential to improve enrollment?
- What were the strengths that RoxWes could leverage to support higher enrollment?
- How could RoxWes best position itself to take advantage of its strengths?
Through their work, McCew and Gracey learned that the number of children in Weston in the age cohort serviced by RoxWes programs was not only small, but also was becoming more diverse.
This insight, shared with Ingrid and the RoxWes board, shifted attention from concern with the structure and direction of the program itself to a focus on putting into place support resources and taking appropriate steps to effectively market the very strong and well-regarded program already in place, McCew recounted.
The effort led to recommendations to develop and focus key resources to support a locally-oriented marketing campaign aimed at broadly enhancing the visibility of the RoxWes program in the Weston residential, professional, and business community, focusing specific attention to its changing demographic character.
RoxWes also developed a Facebook Page, updated its program brochures, designed a new web site, and made important connections in the community to expand its donor list.
This month, as it celebrates its 50th anniversary, the organization is back on track and growing. For the year that ended last June 30, RoxWes posted a $31,000 surplus on $300,000 in revenue, up from a deficit of $32,000 on $209,000 two years before.
Enrollment also increased 59% during the past two years and, Mansfield said, our future looks very bright.
I knew, from our first of many meetings, that I was going to learn a lot. Jack and Jud worked patiently and tirelessly on digging up information regarding Roxbury Weston Program, along with completing intensive research, conducting interviews, looking at the current environment, and at our marketing program and our fundraising processes.