FAQ

Q: What makes ESC different from other consulting options?

A: Think of ESC as your organization’s partner and guide, dedicated to helping you understand your organization’s needs and crafting an approach carefully designed to reach your goals. Whether you have a clear idea of what you are looking for or are uncertain where to start, our work with more than 1,500 local nonprofits over 30 years has provided us with the expertise to guide your organization through the process of finding the support to take you where need to go.We know your nonprofit is unique, so we work hard to develop a relationship with you to understand how to be an effective partner and best strengthen your organization.Since we tailor every service to meet the needs of our clients, not every engagement will have identical components, but all commonly include:

  • Personalized assessment and collaborative project scoping
  • Tailored selection of one or more expert consultants
  • Longer project time-period to allow adequate time to understand your organization, to work with you to develop a plan, and to help you put those plans into place and adjust them as necessary to make sure you have positive results
  • Use of a coaching, rather than a consulting, approach to help come up with the answer that is best for your organization and leave participants with new skills they didn’t have before the engagement began
  • Sustained implementation support

A crucial aspect of our approach is that almost all our services are delivered through coaching from experienced executives extensively trained in nonprofit needs; instead of doing the work for our clients, we teach them how to do it themselves, and we help them tackle the underlying issues that lead to sustainable change. This developmental approach is designed to build the capacity of organizations to learn, prioritize, plan, and implement change during and beyond the span of our engagements.

Implementation support is another aspect where ESC differentiates itself from others. Nonprofits often face significant challenges in implementing the plans and strategies developed during consulting projects. So, at the point when most consulting projects end, ESC’s engagements are generally at their midpoint, shifting to helping clients put into place the changes they have identified they need to accomplish. We are dedicated to providing robust support from beginning to end, ensuring you have the same expert resources in adjusting your plan as it meets reality that you had in coming up with the plan in the first place.

Q: Does ESC work?

A: Yes! Third-party evaluations of our services repeatedly affirm that our services are very effective. For example, a recent Harder+Company study found that 100% of participants in our Developing Development Program stated that program participation met their expectations, was high quality, and provided practical and detailed strategies and support. More importantly, six months after program completion, all participants showed continued progress in meeting their fund development goals – and cited the ESC consultants’ expertise and careful attention to the individual needs of their clients as a key factor to the program’s success.

In 2010, Blue Garnet Associates anonymously interviewed our clients to assess how they viewed ESC. Representative quotes on the most common themes include:

  • ESC’s greatest strength is that the people who teach and mentor speak from many years of experience — they have actually walked the walk.
  • They really put the effort in to understand our organization, and that is their great strength.
  • Other options were available, but only ESC allowed a team approach to developing our development infrastructure. The group-based strategies were why I chose ESC first.
  • Having coaching made our program much more impactfulthan just having the class.
  • I go to ESC when I want someone who is going to get to know my agency and our problems. The key factor is their consultants give of their time; they are volunteers, and none of us is watching the meter.

A client satisfaction study was conducted by Harder+Company Community Research in 2008. Not only did clients report being extremely satisfied with their ESC experience, the study found that ESC services positively change nonprofit leadership, which in turn, improves organizational functioning. “ESC consultants are attuned to their clients’ needs and employ the correct methods and style in working with client organizations and individuals,” the report concluded. “Clients rely on ESC consultants for a variety of services that are as specific as teaching fund development skills and as general as being a good listener. . . . Participants frequently expressed that they received a lot for a small fee [and] that the ESC consultants’ versatility [made] them a valuable resource for enhancing their individual and organizational skills, which is an important part in improving organizational effectiveness.”

To read about some of our projects and what those clients had to say about ESC, please see “Featured Clients.” We are also happy provide references to help you assess whether ESC is the right choice for you.

Q: What services does ESC offer, and how do you customize them to our particular needs?

A: At ESC, we understand that nonprofits need a customized approach that fits the organization into a generic process or template. Instead, the client is at the center, and all our services are crafted around their goals, culture, values, practices, and constraints. As we work with you to develop a project that best meets your needs, we draw upon recognized best practices and our experience of helping local nonprofits for over three decades.While all our projects are customized, we offer several different types of services and we work closely with our clients to determine the best fit. Please see Consulting and Institutes for summaries of our various services.

Most of our projects are twelve months in length, focused on strengthening a client in one of our core practice areas. Usually two or more consultants will be assigned, depending on the nature of the project. In addition to our core areas, we offer a broad range of management consulting services, most frequently focused on financial management, human resources, operations, and program development or evaluation, but the skill-set in our 100+ member corps covers numerous other areas of expertise. We are happy to discuss your particular needs and how we can help you address them.Of course, many clients have needs in multiple areas, and while prioritizing is necessary, such needs are often interrelated and may be best addressed together. ESC can therefore provide several services in an integrated project through our Tailored Management Consulting offering. Projects may run consecutively or concurrently, and they may be selected at the outset or be defined over time, allowing clients to address their needs in an integrated, coordinated fashion.

Another popular type of services ESC offers is our Institutes – including the Developing Development Program (DDP) and the Executive Directors Leadership Institute (EDLI) – that combine series of training sessions in a peer group with extended coaching to support the client’s application of the classroom work.

Our Institutes are designed to address a major shortcoming of most workshops – while they can offer important content, it can be very difficult to integrate those learnings “back at the office.” Our Institutes feature coaches that attend the training sessions alongside you as well as meeting with you regularly over the duration of the twelve- to eighteen-month program, to help you tailor the material to your unique needs and circumstances. In the words of one client to a third-party evaluator: A while back, I sat through a workshop and it was interesting, but it didn’t have the takeaways that ESC offers, where it really changes the organization. That has to do with the coaching, because that let us get into the nuts and bolts of our organization.

Each of our Institutes also includes opportunities for multiple team members from your organization to participate, and the duration of our Institutes results in more consistent retention and implementation of the seminars’ content. It also facilitates stronger relationships between you and other participants, providing you with a supportive peer network lasting long after the Institute is over.

Q: Who does ESC serve? What area, and what types of nonprofits?

A: Most of our clients are located throughout Los Angeles County, and we have a smaller but significant client and consultant base in Orange County as well. ESC is part of a national network with affiliates around the country – if you are located outside of Southern California, you may be able to find similar services in other communities by consulting our affiliate network website.

We serve nonprofit and public entities across all sectors, including the arts, culture, and humanities; civic and community development; education; environment; health; human services; and religious organizations. Because of our customized approach, we can effectively serve organizations of any size, mission, or developmental stage. We also work with government and universities. We do not, however, offer services to for-profit entities or groups that do not yet have nonprofit status unless they are under fiscal sponsorship.

We have served approximately 1,500 organizations in Southern California over the course of our over thirty years of service, including 118 last year alone. See "Featured Clients" for some of our recent projects.

Q: What are ESC consultants’ backgrounds, and what kind of training do they have?

A: All our volunteer consultants have significant professional leadership experience, usually at the executive management level. They have content skills in our key service areas – planning, board development, executive coaching, fund development, finance, human resources, and general management – and they receive extensive initial and ongoing training from ESC in these and other relevant areas. While the majority have come from the for-profit sector, most also have a history of prior involvement with nonprofits, and our robust training program teaches them how to apply their skills in the nonprofit sector. You can find out more about our consultants here.

Before being placed on a project, all of our consultants complete our ten-day series of core training classes. In addition, a wide variety of trainings on various relevant topics are offered annually to keep our consultants current with emerging trends and best practices – and our consultants participate in an average of four such classes every year.

Q: I’m interested in becoming an ESC consultant. What do I need to do?

A: For more information on what we look for in our consultants and how to learn more, please see “Volunteer.”

Q: How much do ESC services cost?

A: ESC’s services are affordable for virtually every nonprofit due to the generous contributions of our consultants, who volunteer their expertise and time, and our funders, who support our efforts to make high quality services available to as many nonprofits as possible. Their dedication and commitment allows for nonprofit organizations to access our support for far less than market rates.Because our projects are customized for each client and each of our services has its own pricing structure, it is difficult to provide a standard list. However, it is not uncommon for a service to be priced at $2500 or less for a full year of support, though multi-consultant projects – like a strategic plan – may be $7500 or more for twelve months of coaching, consulting, and implementation support (compared with an average nonprofit market rate of $50,000 or more).However, ESC has a deep organizational commitment to ensure that cost will never be a barrier to necessary services, and we also know that sometimes the organizations most in need are also the most resource-challenged. ESC therefore has sponsorships available to reduce our client fees even further. While no services are provided entirely free of charge, an organization in great financial need may be able to access our same high quality services for a fraction of even these low prices.

Q: This sounds great! How do I get started?

A: There are several ways to get started. If you want to learn more about how ESC can help your organization, the easiest is to call or email our Vice President of Organizational Consulting, Vicky Foxworth, at 213.613.9103 x13 or vfoxworth@escsc.org, who will discuss your needs and answer any questions you may have. You can also fill out a Request for Assistance and email it to Vicky.

After you contact us, we will spend time with you discussing your organization and your needs so that we can make the right plan to best support your work. Once we have jointly developed and agreed upon the project goals, approach, and scope, you will be matched with your consultant or consultant team (depending upon project need) and have the opportunity to assess whether you agree that they will be a good fit. Once the project has begun, staff will continue to stay in close contact with you and your consultants to ensure the project is meeting or exceeding your expectations.

Since it is not uncommon for the scope or goals to evolve during a project due to changing circumstances, our process is designed to anticipate such revisions and to make the necessary adjustments so that we stay focused on your most critical needs -- often without necessitating a change in fee. Because of the wide range of services that we offer, we can incorporate additional needs into the original project – including adding consultants with different areas of expertise if necessary – or start work in another area once the initial project is completed. The close partnership our staff and consultants have with you allows us to stay attuned to your project’s progress and to quickly and carefully make the adjustments that will ensure your project’s success.