Your nonprofit organization’s objective is to serve your mission and growing client base with maximum effectiveness in a rapidly changing environment. The impact of that changing environment may be severely stretching your nonprofit’s current internal capacity. Or it may be suggesting that your nonprofit needs to grow new capabilities in certain key operational areas.

Valerie helps you identify, assess and develop strategies for strengthening your internal capacities. Services include:

Organizational Assessment

Valerie uses a number of quantitative and qualitative methods to assess organizational capacity to effectively deliver programs and services to their clients. Depending on the needs of the client, methods used could include stakeholder interviews, online surveys and questionnaires, internal document review and literature reviews. Information gleaned from the assessments may be used to identify and prioritize key issues. Organizational assessments are often used to develop a baseline of organizational capacity in preparation for board development, strategic planning, community needs assessments, issue-based campaigns for client advocacy, partnerships and mergers and program development.

Program Logic Models

Valerie works with organizations to analyze their current situation within the context of the environment within which they operate to identify key issues strengths, challenges resources and actions required to reach their goals and objectives. The models are structured so that clients may easily develop implementation plans and measure progress towards desired outcomes. The program logic models may be used for program development, grant proposals, and program evaluation.

Strategic Planning

Valerie uses a collaborative approach to engage key stakeholders at every stage of the strategic planning process. She conducts a thorough assessment of the organization’s capacity and key relationships with clients and funders. These data are used to helps them to identify and prioritize key issues, goals, objectives and strategies to effectively position themselves within their competitive environments. Depending on the purpose of the plan, the results of the strategic planning process may be used to develop more efficient board and organizational structures; develop plans for long term sustainability; assess the feasibility of entering new ventures, create sustainable communities or to inform program development.

Budgeting and Finance

Valerie works with emerging organizations to identify the necessary resources to effectively implement programs and services and project associated revenues and expenses and monthly cash flows. These data may be used to establish budgets for organizations, programs and projects, or to support funding proposals, applications for tax exemption status, or reports to funders, accountants and regulating authorities. Valerie’s work has included developing financial policies and procedures for board and staff members and installation of Quick Books systems. Valerie has developed a three-hour workshop on budgeting and finance, and occasionally teaches an online finance course for the University of Illinois Great Cities Institute.

Board Development

Valerie works with the board and executive directors to assess board operations and practices and to identify and prioritize key issues. The outcomes of board assessments could be used to strengthen by-laws and polices; enhance committee structures and systems of communication between board and staff; recruit board members; enhance evaluation systems for board members, executive director and staff; re-visit roles and responsibilities of board and staff in preparation for major projects and fundraising; and staff retreats to address issues of concern.

Needs Assessment

Valerie works with clients to assess their current operating environment to identify and prioritize key issues, identify service gaps and redundancies in local markets; develop goals and objectives and to formalize their internal theories of change. The results of the needs assessments may be included in grant proposals; used to serve as the basis for program logic models; provide support for program evaluation planning; used to develop or enhance new programs and services or serve as a basis to terminate programs and services.

Program Evaluation

Valerie works with key organizational stakeholders to develop an evaluation plan taking into account the program logic model and outcomes identified during the program planning and design phase. She uses a combination of quantitative and quantitative measures to assess progress towards the programs’ goals and objectives and uses the results to make informed recommendations as to how the organization should proceed.

Capacity Building Workshops

Valerie works with organizations, funders, local universities and government agencies to develop workshops tailored to the specific needs of the audiences. Subject matter could include grants management, proposal writing, community needs assessment and theory of change, strategic planning, budgeting, board development, etcetera. Valerie has also developed Capacity Building Blocks TM , a 10 week workshop series meant to help emerging leaders start and manage nonprofit organizations and maintain regulatory compliance.

Policy Analysis and Advocacy

Valerie works with organizations to conduct issue-based needs assessments to identify key policy and/or community issues that impact their ability to provide programs and services. The results are used to develop appropriate strategies to advocate for changes that will result in triple-win situations for clients, organizations and policy-makers. Valerie has been particularly effective in advocating for greater workforce development and capacity building for minorities and small business owners wishing to do business with the State of Illinois; developing strategies to increase transparency and access to Neighborhood Stabilization Funding; advocating for TIF reforms and highlighting the need for state legislative boundaries to be drawn in a manner that included input from rank and file citizens and preserved communities of interest.

Project Management

Valerie has served as the project manager on a number of engagements, ranging from community development projects, strategic planning, comprehensive capacity building and community engagement. Her collaborative approach, attention to details and follow up results in projects that have buy-in from major stakeholders with a significant likelihood of results that can be sustained by the organization after the engagement is completed.

Program and Regulatory Compliance

Valerie has observed in the course of her work, that emerging organizations often have capacity issues that present challenges maintaining compliance with programmatic or regulatory requirements. Depending on the needs of the organization, she conducts an assessment that helps them to understand how their internal systems “stack up” against best practices and statutory requirements, and helps organizations correct any deficiencies. Valerie has developed an assessment tool, workshops, facilitated online chats and written articles on the subject to raise awareness of compliance issues and help organizations increase their capacity to get funded.

Ask the Expert Live Chat

Once every month for 1 to 2 hours, Valerie will “get together” with clients and potential clients online to chat about things that matter to nonprofits. Sometimes the discussions will be casual, although they will all be focused and professional. Valerie also invites other “experts” to join and share their know-how or take turns educating each other. Occasionally, it might get personal, and Valerie will offer a support group for a struggling colleagues. 

For further information, contact

Valerie F. Leonard
Expert in Community and Organizational Developent


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Valerie F. Leonard
Community Development Consultant


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