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Case Study

Please note that the name of the nonprofit has been changed out of respect for the organization and clients.

The Situation

Good Works is a 501 © (3) organization established in 1975. The nonprofit operates a residential campus with support services for persons struggling with physical/sexual/emotional abuse and poverty. Good Works was created at the grassroots level and formed strong and enduring relationships with government officials, foundation and corporate leaders, and the medical and law enforcement communities.

The Challenge

With the departure of the third executive director in three years and mounting internal and external challenges, the agency was in a precarious position. The constant, unplanned turnover in the executive director position had weakened the agency leadership and negatively impacted the perception of Good Works as a strong and well-run organization.


  • The signature fundraiser, which had raised in excess of $100,000 annually, had not been held in three years.
  • Decreased development functions had reduced Good Work’s visibility in the community and resulted in the misperception that the agency was going out of business. The development director had also resigned leaving no one to fulfill the development functions.
  • With 65% of the annual operating budget comprised of federal funding, grant protocols had collapsed placing the organization at significant risk.
  • With the opening of a new residential program, expenses had significantly increased while revenue decreased ultimately resulting in a deficit budget and the liquidation of financial reserves to cover operating expenses. Good Works accumulated year-end losses ranging from $120,000 to $390,000 over a five-year period as a result of this imbalance.
  • A new and similar program was being developed by another nonprofit and donors were raising concerns about the duplication of services. The long-term sustainability of Good Works was being seriously threatened for the first time in its existence.
  • Board participation dwindled as the problems escalated and only a few board directors remained to address the challenges.

The Solution

The Good Works board of directors contracted with Ellen McCarty to provide interim executive director services for three months. Ms. McCarty recommended a top to bottom organizational and financial assessment with prioritized recommendations for short and long-term improvements. Ms. McCarty immediately began the organizational assessment and engaged the services of the organization's accounting firm to conduct the financial analysis.

Additionally, a development consultant was hired to produce a newsletter and a Fall annual appeal letter while Ms. McCarty concentrated on government and private revenue sources. Ms. McCarty also worked closely with the executive committee to identify and meet with external stakeholders who needed reassurance that the agency was still operating and fulfilling its mission.

The Results

At the end of the three-month period, an organizational and financial assessment with short and long-term recommendations was presented to the board of directors producing the following outcomes:

  • A new organizational structure was implemented creating operating efficiencies; greater accountability; and an employee incentive program that boosted morale and productivity and recognized performance excellence.
  • The signature fundraiser was revamped and greater emphasis was placed on expanding participation in the agency's annual walk/run fundraiser. Within three years, net proceeds from the walk increased by 270%.
  • A comprehensive fundraising plan was fully developed and executed including an annual board campaign that accounted for one-third of the individual revenue stream.
  • Financial software was replaced and new financial systems and protocols were introduced which ensured greater teamwork and accountability. A structured budget process with shared responsibilities between departments was introduced which resulted in streamlined financial functions and timely and accurate reports. A purchase order protocol was implemented to track expenses, generate savings and minimize risk.
  • A structured board process was introduced to identify, recruit and retain board directors based on the needs of the organization. An annual overnight board retreat was introduced with attendance consistently in the 85% range.

The Conclusion

Within three years, Good Works had reversed its negative financial picture and had a strong board of directors working in partnership with the executive director to create a Five-Year Strategic Plan. In addition, at the request of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and the City of Atlanta, Good Works expanded its campus and more than doubled the number of clients it served. Today, Good Works is once again recognized as a model program to be replicated and has regained its reputation as a premier nonprofit in Metro Atlanta and across the country.