Case Study: Ann Bancroft Foundation

Living Into Your Promise

Designing a strategic planning process that meets community members where they are, engaging people across geographies and navigating power dynamics.

Services: Strategy & Planning

Engaging community in strategic planning

Strategic planning at nonprofits and philanthropic organizations is too often led only by an executive or leadership team, detached or isolated from communities. It can be challenging to involve everyone in the process, even when community engagement is a core part of your work. For communities, this can feel frustrating or even alienating.

In 2022, the Ann Bancroft Foundation (ABF) partnered with Seiche with a goal to do more than pay lip service to community engagement in their strategic planning. After 25 years of supporting girls to live their dreams and reach their full potential, they wanted to honor the vision and lived experiences of their community in charting the organization’s future. They also knew that engaging people across geographies and navigating the power dynamics of those relationships can be difficult, nuanced work.

Working with Seiche was phenomenal – they hold space for nuance and rooted us back to our values and outcomes.

Ethelind Kaba — Executive Director, Ann Bancroft Foundation


What We Did

Seiche embraced ABF’s culture of collaboration to design a strategic planning process that met all of ABF’s community members where they were, providing many opportunities and pathways for engaging.

Recognizing Power Dynamics

Seiche has a long history of working with philanthropies and grassroots organizations, so we pay special attention to the power dynamics inherent in funder/community engagements.

  • We combined multiple methods of research and community listening, from small group conversations to online surveys, contextualizing outreach to the history and geography of specific communities.
  • We prioritized accessibility and confidentiality and helped ABF meet people where they are, adjusting the scope of outreach to include emerging opportunities throughout the project.

On Paper, Not in Stone

Strategic plans need to be flexible. While we may be planning five or ten years into the future, there needs to be room to adjust priorities and actions if conditions change.

  • Our adaptive planning process recognizes that how you plan is as important as what you plan.
  • We designed the community engagement process in a way that built trust and invited partners into the ongoing work of running the organization.

A Thoughtful Roll Out

Knowing that a strategic plan is just a first step, we also guided ABF in putting their plan in action.

  • Seiche worked with ABF leadership to advance priorities identified in the plan, including developing a new e-newsletter template, designing a refreshed brand identity, and offering strategic counsel on how to share the results of the planning process back with the community.
  • Just like the research and planning process, the communication plan and materials were crafted to meet people where they were. Everyone was involved in celebrating the refreshed vision and mission.

Translating Insights into Action

  • We observed that the cost of activities had increased and girls were having an even harder time accessing their dreams. This insight lead ABF to double grant amounts, increasing from $500 to $1,000.
  • ABF was well-respected among those who knew the organization, but they didn’t have as much reach as hoped. The strategic plan built in a new focus on building lasting partnerships with organizations across the state. A new grant opportunity was developed to put a stronger focus on deepening relationships with their alumnae community.
  • ABF’s strategy of giving grants directly to girls is unique and perceived as bold and impactful. We developed a refreshed brand identity that reflected ABF’s boldness, and crafted messaging and communications guidance that emphasized ABF’s unique impact.
  • People wanted to know more about the theory behind ABF’s work, including why they do what they do. We partnered with ABF leadership to create an explicit theory of change and define outcomes rooted in a clear and compelling story.

Seiche brought a strategic eye to their work and a relational approach. The resulting strategic plan feels authentic, fresh, and sophisticated. It’s grounded in the voices of our staff, board, alumnae, and community partners.

Ethelind Kaba — Executive Director, Ann Bancroft Foundation


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