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Setting a strategic path for Equal Opportunity Schools

What we did: Strategic plan for expansion

At a glance

Equal Opportunity Schools wanted an actionable strategic plan for expansion. Through our Philanthropy Fellow Program, we helped the nonprofit align behind a focused approach that will allow it to reach more students.

Wanted: Strategic expansion plan

Nonprofits are often challenged to do more with less resources—though it’s a challenge that’s hardly unique to the nonprofit world. Equal Opportunity Schools, an organization that ensures that all students have the opportunity to succeed in challenging high school courses, had just such a challenge.

“We needed someone to keep us on track and push the planning process forward.”

Luke Justice, Equal Opportunity Schools Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives

Its small but mighty strategic initiatives team, which increases the organization’s national impact by developing new service contacts with school districts, needed a strategic plan to focus its expansion efforts around. Without a foundational strategy—and optimized reporting and analysis—the team lacked a clear path to achieving its ambitious growth goals.

And yet, it’s difficult to make time for strategic planning, especially when a team is already operating at maximum capacity.

“We were subsumed in the day to day,” says Luke Justice, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives at Equal Opportunity Schools. “We needed someone to keep us on track and push the planning process forward.”

Students walking through a busy school hallway

Establishing a foundation for successful expansion

Over the course of a three-month pro-bono engagement, our Philanthropy Fellow, Susan Liechty, worked with Equal Opportunity Schools’ strategic initiatives team to:

  • Create an actionable strategic plan – Reactive fire drills were distracting the team from the efficient pursuit of its goals. We helped the team identify pain points and to-dos and prioritize its key objectives to develop a long-term view to execute and measure success against.

  • Create more lead time – By moving its sales cycle earlier in the school year, the team can plan ahead for vital partnership events. The shift in the calendar year also gives the organization’s partnership directors a much longer runway to onboard schools in the fall, enhancing the quality of programming implementation.

  • Revamp its pricing model – Using historical pricing and revenue goals, we performed a demand curve analysis to help update the team’s pricing model.

  • Optimize its tracking database – The engagement enabled the team to trade a cluster of manual spreadsheets for a single, consolidated master file.

  • Implement agile – Adopting an agile workflow and the process of scoping, sizing, and planning the 900+ tasks in its workload allowed the team to pivot to a more strategic, proactive approach—and brought visibility to its need for additional resources.
“There’s a very clear connection between the number of schools that we contract with and the number of students we can help put on a different academic trajectory—so that’s the bottom line outcome.”
Luke Justice

Focused expansion approach for Equal Opportunity Schools

Now, the strategic initiatives team is aligned behind a focused approach that will maximize its impact.

“We’ve invested in our future strategy, and now that we’ve got that in place, we don’t feel like we’re constantly scrambling to catch up,” says Justice.

And the team’s impact directly correlates to the organization’s impact.

“There’s a very clear connection between the number of schools that we contract with and the number of students we can help put on a different academic trajectory—so that’s the bottom line outcome,” says Justice.

School building with empty bike racks
“Our future growth in schools—and ultimately student lives impacted—will in significant part be attributable to the work you've done with us these past four months.”
Reid Saaris, Equal Opportunity Schools CEO

About Slalom’s Philanthropy Fellow Program

As part of our Philanthropy Fellow Program, seasoned consultants volunteer their expertise to benefit a local nonprofit in a three-month pro-bono engagement.

Philanthropy Fellows in action

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Learn more

“The program is amazing,” says Justice. “[Susan] just embodied the best of all these characteristics that we would have wanted in a philanthropy fellow—she’s incredibly smart and had a lot of great ideas, but she was also very humble and a great listener, and was just very willing to say ‘where are you guys at, and how can I help?’”

We’re proud to partner with local organizations that allow us to give back in truly meaningful ways, such as helping StolenYouth rethink its marketing strategy to boost awareness, engagement, and efficiency, or building a new website to help the Boys and Girls Club of King County fulfill its mission.

Equal Opportunity Schools logo figures with graduation caps

About Equal Opportunity Schools

Equal Opportunity Schools, a Seattle-based nonprofit, works to ensure that all students, regardless of race or income, have the opportunity to succeed in challenging high school courses. The nonprofit helps school districts nationwide identify students who have the potential to succeed in Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs and plan, develop, and mature their approach to equity.