Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo

Building Organizational Capacity to Facilitate Growth


“We hired the Crossland Group to help us take our organization to the next level. Not only did the solution reflect us very well, but Crossland really built the capacity of our organization to understand what we had been given. That’s unusual in a consulting firm. We learned along the way with them. It was tremendously successful.”

Francisco Vasquez

Board Member

The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo

The challenge

Build operational capacity to support the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo’s new strategy for “a vibrant and inclusive Greater Buffalo region with opportunity for all.”

One of the challenges we see over and over when clients come to us is that they have worked hard to create a brilliant strategy that defines the future vision and goals of their organization, but their existing organization is not designed in a way to implement it. This can be extremely frustrating for leaders of these organizations, as they can see the bright future in front of them, but are stuck in limbo without the ability to obtain it.

This was the case for the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo when they contacted us for support. They needed a partner to work beside them to implement their strategic plan, which obliged them to deepen their capacity to grow new assets, partnerships, and programs. To enable this required identifying different types of work they needed to perform and the skill sets required to do that work. It also required them think how to best array that work across the organization’s departments and realign cross-functional business processes. The Foundation saw an ambitious future leading social change, but had hit a roadblock with how to make it happen.

We were thrilled with the opportunity to bring this inspiring Foundation’s vision to life. The challenge was going to be building internal capacity and processes that could not only support the strategy of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo now, but also as it continued to grow in the future.

What we did

The first part of our collaboration with the Foundation tackled how to support the new roles defined by their strategy. Not only did we need to build internal capacity for growth, we needed the team to work across functions to address objectives beyond day-to-day operations. In order to achieve this, we focused on the following areas:

Separate Roles:

When we began our analysis, we found several instances of staff members performing more than their core functions. For example, there were staff members whose positions were supposed to be focused on community impact, but instead they were spending more than 50 percent of their time on data entry and other infrastructure needs.

We worked closely with the team to separate the roles and clearly define responsibilities so that staff members were able to be more efficient and increase their capacity. This also enabled them to focus on the work that was most valuable to their functions.

“The engagement with the Crossland Group provided great insight into how organizations work—and should work—and what people should be focusing on.” – Betsy Constantine, Vice President of Giving Strategies, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo

 Build the operation team’s competencies:

Through our collaborative process, we co-identified twenty-one competencies that would be needed to fulfill the Foundation’s new role in the community.

We then realigned all job descriptions and performance management processes to reinforce and build capacity around these competencies. This included a new discipline and methodology for managing cross-functional projects.

“In most cases, you learn from the result. With the Crossland Group, we learned from the process as well!”

 Develop processes to support continued growth:
This wasn’t just a “set it and forget it” partnership that we embarked on with the Foundation. We needed to build internal capacity for re-aligning staff on an ongoing basis. We went beyond creating a static plan to address functional needs and talent gaps, and developed processes to continually assess support for continued growth. We gave the team the tools they needed to flourish as the Foundation progressed through its strategy and achieved growth.

“The way the process was structured—and the many conversations with the Crossland team—really stretched my thinking.”

The result

Our close collaboration with the Foundation achieved measurable results. We were able to engage people at all levels of the organization and increase collaboration between the teams.

Today, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo is home to over 750 named funds, with $300M in total assets, and $12M in annual giving. In the period from 2007 to 2013, the Foundation experienced exponential growth as a result of an ambitious strategic plan to deepen the its capacity to lead social change and maximize its growth potential in terms of assets, partnerships, and programs.

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