The Need to Lead
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Brian Mitchell delivered concluding remarks to more than 400 students, panelists, and guests at Media Scholars Week at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. He spoke … Read MoreSee All News items ▼
In his capacity as CEO and director of the Edvance Foundation, Brian Mitchell attended the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Postsecondary Success Grantee Forum, an … Read MoreSee All News items ▼
We understand the interplay among the core components of that dynamic environment and how each must link to an institution’s strategic plan if it is to remain healthy and relevant. Drawing from the resources of our nationally respected affiliate network, we work collaboratively with educational institutions, nonprofits, and consortia toward creating an integrated vision for the future.
Is the institution’s ethos reflected in its strategic plan?
Does the strategic plan provide an actionable framework that links institutional resources with people, programs, and facilities?
The best strategic plans create a living dynamic, establish shared aspirations, and build excitement and momentum throughout the institutional community. They also enable institutional leaders to successfully drive and manage change in areas ranging from facilities enhancements and community outreach to development.
Brian Mitchell & Associates offers a proven ability to help institutions not just think boldly but also move decisively. We can support an institutional leader’s vision by setting attainable goals, clear benchmarks, and robust, well-timed internal assessments, all of which help to earn the endorsement of senior-level administrators and establish a visible way forward for the entire community. Embraced by a wide range of constituents, a good strategic plan takes on a life of its own, with goals continuously driven forward from all corners of the institution.
Does the master plan emerge seamlessly from the strategic plan?
Is it sufficiently comprehensive to transform the institution into a dynamic regional and national economic driver?
The best master plans take a holistic view of the institution, seeking change that not only strengthens an institution’s physical presence but also uplifts the entire community. They must also protect an institution’s historic claims to tax exemption, which are critical to its survival.
Brian Mitchell & Associates works closely with institutional leaders, architects, project managers, facilities planners, and in-house facilities staff to structure a plan and process that enables clients to meet their strategic objectives. We lay out the framework that enables clients to stay on time and on budget, link the master plan to the strategic plan, and drive community connections and economic growth.
Is shared governance respected and understood by the institution as a whole?
Do key constituencies understand the duties, responsibilities, opportunities – and limitations – of their roles in the governance structure?
In the corporate world, decisions tend to rest with the CEO, but nonprofit management is characterized by shared governance. As such, the perspectives of boards of trustees and other key constituencies factor significantly into every major decision.
With decades of experience in higher education leadership, the firm and its network of distinguished managers and practitioners have a highly successful track record of working effectively with trustees and senior-level administrators. That experience, combined with the perspective gained from corporate work, provides the perfect vantage point for helping clients understand the challenges and opportunities of shared governance. As a result, we are able to deliver comprehensive, effective strategies that help our clients lead and manage complex institutions.
How do you find senior managers who understand nonprofits but also possess the creativity and nimbleness to act as change agents?
In an era that demands cost-effective and entrepreneurial solutions, how can nonprofit institutions develop and sustain a team that grows with and adapts to their own success in a rapidly changing environment?
Increasingly, nonprofit institutions are finding new opportunities to rethink how members of their senior management team relate to one another as well as the dynamic environment in which they operate. Many institutions are now hiring senior-level managers from a broader and deeper candidate pool that includes the private sector. Further, management best practices dictate that key staff members organize in different ways to meet challenges and opportunities and respond to the needs of their constituencies.
To address the changing face of nonprofit leadership, Brian Mitchell & Associates works closely with institutions to understand their unique environments, match the right players to the right settings, and help implement management and organizational strategies that have identifiable metrics by which to measure leadership success.
In an era of declining resources, how much flexibility exists to meet changing conditions and new opportunities?
How do nonprofit institutions understand and maximize their revenue streams to meet key objectives linked to their strategic plan?
Most nonprofit institutions are heavily dependent on some combination of user fees, such as college tuition, and auxiliary revenue streams. A few have sizeable endowments, but even these institutions have been impacted by the deep recession and draw-down policies. In addition, nonprofits face reductions in state and federal support and shifting priorities among corporate and foundation donors.
At Brian Mitchell & Associates, we work with institutions to conduct an in-depth assessment of their financial health, potential revenue sources, and how their revenue, debt, tax policy, and (where appropriate) new revenue and third-party sources can be used to achieve strategic initiatives. Our job is to reassemble the financial pieces to create a viable, balanced, and conservative pathway to support growth while strengthening the understanding and use of current and prospective financial resources.
Has the institution linked its admissions and financial aid programs to shape a student body that reflects the aspirations of its strategic plan?
Is the institution’s enrollment model relational or transactional in nature?
Enrollment drives educational institutions’ financial, cultural, and academic agendas. Yet in a world where the need for a college-educated workforce is greater than ever, colleges and universities face daunting challenges associated with changing student demographics, an increasingly competitive admissions environment, and uncertain economic conditions. We strongly believe the time has come to move from a transactional to a relational model of student recruitment. Having created and implemented successful and sustainable admissions and enrollment programs, we are fully qualified to reorient and retool an institution so that enrollment staff can identify and recruit not just more applicants, but the right applicants – those most likely to enroll and thrive there. In doing so, we help build enrollment programs that foster lifelong relationships with students “from cradle through career.”
Does the strategic plan take into account its sense of place in the surrounding community?
Has the institution devised strategies to protect its tax exemption while investing funds to foster community development?
Too often, and many times unintentionally, nonprofit institutions isolate themselves from the towns and cities where they reside. Brian Mitchell & Associates helps institutions implement programs that are mutually beneficial to both the internal and external communities. We assess the assets most likely to build community engagement and spur development, while addressing the tax implications of community relations at the local and regional levels.
By working with the firm, institutions can become better neighbors and drivers of economic activity in their regions and, in turn, help surrounding communities become more vibrant, welcoming, and attractive to potential applicants, faculty, and employees.
Together with our affiliate network, Brian Mitchell & Associates includes some of the best and brightest thought leaders, opinion makers, and practitioners in American higher education and nonprofit management. We focus on game-changing ideas that deliver meaningful, sustainable progress to both individual institutions and the nonprofit sector as a whole.
The case studies below emerge from the seven core competencies in which the firm specializes. Each study is part of a larger puzzle meant to demonstrate the importance of developing a strategic vision for an organization.
Recognizing that it could not operate as an isolated “city upon a hill,” Bucknell University linked its strategic plan, master plan, and external relations to an ambitious and comprehensive vision that transferred core university assets into an aggressive downtown/neighborhood development program. The university used a mix of state and federal funding, university funding and tax credits, and private developers to imagine collaborative partnerships between university and community stakeholders, changing forever the relationship between town and gown.
Washington & Jefferson College had a rancorous relationship with the small city of Washington, Pennsylvania, where it had existed as a “colonial college” since the nation’s founding. When the city began challenging Washington & Jefferson’s tax-exempt status, college senior leadership took on two critical tasks. The first was to rebuild relations between town and gown. The second was to launch an ambitious building campaign that linked the development of the college’s facilities and programs to a comprehensive master plan designed to support the college’s enrollment growth in an urban setting while maintaining its identity as a selective liberal arts institution with rich tradition.
When the city of Washington, Pennsylvania, challenged the tax-exempt status of Washington & Jefferson College, American higher education understood what was at stake. The national higher education associations filed amicus briefs in support of the college. Pennsylvania’s private colleges and universities took the unprecedented step of assessing themselves a one-time fee to support the college in its prolonged legal battles. The case became the national bellwether and remains the best defense on why colleges and universities remain tax-exempt in America today.