JCF Increasing Capacity Through Pro-Bono ConsultancyJuly 27, 2012
One of JCF’s most effective capacity building strategies is our pro-bono services that leverage the expertise of professionals in the Jewish community on behalf of Jewish nonprofits. Recently, we chatted with Sarah Levin, Executive Director of Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA) and Tracy Akresh, a professional coach, whom we connected with Sarah as a pro-bono executive coach. The below interview describes their experience, both receiving and giving pro-bono help.
What motivated you to seek pro-bono consulting help through the Federation?
Sarah Levin: As a small non-profit organization, with room to grow in nearly every direction, the pro-bono consulting service provided by the Federation was irresistible. With room to define our needs and determine our own objectives with the consultant, we received impactful and incredibly effective support. What small, growing non-profit wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to receive professional, pro-bono consulting services?
With room to define our needs and determine our own objectives with the consultant, we received impactful and incredibly effective support. -Sarah Levin
Tracy Akresh: As an executive coach and owner of unpackingthebox professional coaching, I am always looking for new opportunities to expand my coaching offering and help new clients. When I met Bab Freiberg, the Director of Strategic Consulting at the Jewish Community Federation, I was impressed by the proposal to provide coaching and consulting services to executive directors at Jewish organizations. Executive Directors often do not have the time and resources to get the training and coaching that is so critical to the senior leadership of any organization. I felt I was in a unique position to really help make a difference. I have 15 years of hands-on leadership experience at large companies such as Ernst & Young, JPMorgan, Esurance, and Hewlett Packard. I like working with experienced, emerging, and transitioning leaders who are looking to be better at what they do while gaining more work/life balance and personal satisfaction. This opportunity allows me to help experts in their field become expert in business and team management. I focus on helping leaders re-think leadership behaviors, cultivate unique strengths, apply business best practices, take planful action, and focus on what they truly love. This program is a great opportunity to help build stronger organizations for the Jewish community.
Executive Directors often do not have the time and resources to get training and coaching — I felt I was in a unique position to really help make a difference. -Tracy Akresh
What results/impact did you get out of the experience?
SL: Tracy provided our office with new tools to utilize our individual strengths in the workplace. On an organization level, she provided us with useful templates and various resources to help our internal operations and general management. Additionally, she helped facilitate our annual board retreat which was incredibly useful.
TA: Jimena (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa) is very special agency. Because I am Sephardic I felt aligned with the mission of the organization. While the content of our engagement is confidential, the director set up her goals early in the coaching process. We focused on identifying and cultivating her unique strengths and leadership practices so that she could be an even more effective leader. From a technical perspective we reviewed goals and objective setting, staff and board development, motivation, accountability, and project prioritization. We also integrated strategic planning for the organization and performance management into our discussions. We were able to make a lot of progress in just a few short months.
Would you seek pro-bono consulting help again?
SL: Yes – receiving support and guidance from an objective outside consultant was a fantastic and useful experience.
TA: I would happily serve the community again as a pro-bono consultant. This program builds good will in the community and through executive coaching, we are building stronger organizations by developing talent at the director and executive levels. This type of coaching also allows agencies to reduce expenses and potentially increase business. Professional consultants typically charge $150-$300/hour for this type of work. Elevating a director’s leadership skills can create more time to focus on programing and fundraising.