How the Home for Little Wanderers has prioritized data, strategy, and staffing to achieve new levels of fundraising success

The Home for Little Wanderers provides a seamless continuum of vital programs and services for every stage of development for children and families throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York. For more than 200 years, The Home has helped to strengthen vulnerable families and keep children safe in their own communities by providing behavioral health, therapeutic residential and special education services, adoption, and foster care. The Home impacts more than 12,000 lives each year.

The Opportunity

When The Home for Little Wanders initially engaged our counsel, they were preparing to launch a capital campaign to consolidate all family services into a new building. However, through our assessment, we quickly discovered the need to pivot our focus. Of more pressing priority were the need to strengthen operating support, ensure the development team had the resources they needed to be successful, and create stronger communication channels between the development team and senior leadership. The organization was also navigating critical transitions, both within their Board and in the face of COVID. As a result, we refocused our counsel to center on strategic planning for fundraising, with an eye for building a higher level of sustainable annual support.

The Results of Our Partnership

Fundraising

Through a series of data and evidence-driven exercises, we were able to illustrate The Home’s vast donor potential to the development team, CEO, and Board. This, in turn, led to greater attention to the other conditions that would impact philanthropic growth: the case for support, the priorities of various team members, and the role of the Board.

Following our completion of a prospect model and staff assessment, we outlined and partnered with The Home to implement a number of key recommendations, including:

  • Shift fundraising messaging and culture to focus more greatly on annual support, which is donor-centric and will lead to more productive conversations with prospects
  • Add a Board of Trustees ($5K) in addition to existing the Board of Directors/Governors ($10K), and reimagine the current Board of Ambassadors ($1,500) as a leadership giving level; The Home has already successfully recruited several new Trustee members
  • Increase fundraising transparency and engagement with the Board of Directors
  • Solidify funding priorities to drive frontline activity
  • Augment staffing with functions that remove barriers to frontline activity (such as prospect research and stewardship)
  • Provide clearer and expanded responsibilities for Board Members, through the creation of individualized plans, to encourage stronger philanthropic activity and support

Executive Search

Another key recommendation was the hiring of a new Vice President of Development, who would be highly focused on frontline fundraising, could encourage greater levels of prospect activity, and would have the ability to effectively engage senior leadership. Because of our deep involvement in The Home’s philanthropic strategy, we were able to have in-depth, informative conversations with candidates about the organization’s opportunities, challenges, and future. The search concluded successfully with the hiring of Athelia “Tia” Tilson. Tia previously held senior development roles at the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review and Ariadne Labs, a global leader in health systems innovation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard Chan School of Public Health.

Looking Forward

The Home for Little Wanderer’s strengthened leadership team and communications, coupled with data-driven strategies, means the organization is well-poised to continue to achieve sustainable philanthropic success. They are on track to grow their annual support by 50% over the next 3-5 years, from $8M to $12M.

I can’t say enough good things about my experience partnering with Development Guild. I really appreciated how communicative and direct they were; the feedback they provided me with was so helpful. Every aspect of the partnership was wonderful, and we are very pleased to have hired a great new Vice President of Development.

- Lesli Suggs, President and Chief Executive Officer

Contact us to learn more about our campaign counsel and executive search services.

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