Meetings, Professional Growth, EOS®, B.O.S., Case studies | June 20, 2024

Non-profit case study: Using business-world knowledge to do more good with The Well

image representing Non-profit case study: Using business-world knowledge to do more good with The Well

The Well is a nonprofit based in Northeast Nebraska. Originally started as a halfway house for women in 1991, The Well has grown tremendously in the past decade, from its humble roots with one facility and fifteen employees to seven facilities and over 100 employees.

Nonprofit Case Study: Using business-world knowledge to do more good with The Well

Since it began, The Well has sought to fill gaps in the communities it serves with compassion and uncommonly good follow-through. Its incredible growth has created more good in the community, and also more challenges in the process of scaling that any small business can relate to.

We spoke with Dana Wockenfuss, Director of Development & Advocacy at The Well, to learn more about how implementing a business operating system could help nonprofits grow into even stronger organizations.

Can you talk a little bit about why your team decided to implement EOS®?

When I joined The Well’s team, I learned The Well’s Executive Director, Donny Larson, knew what EOS was and had read What the Heck is EOS®, but they hadn’t taken the action to implement it. My prior work history was all at for-profit companies, the last two of which were companies that ran on EOS®. At my last role before joining The Well, I was a part of the implementation of EOS® and learning how to roll it out to an organization. I felt the difference between the before and after EOS® at that company, so the idea that we could use the same model at The Well was so exciting. 

By happenstance, we were doing our budgeting for the fiscal year, and the Board of Directors brought up the need for us to create an updated three year strategic plan. The timing was perfect to start implementing EOS®, beginning with that strategic vision. We found an implementer, David Slobotski, out of the Omaha area and started rolling out EOS® last summer.

Resources at nonprofits are famously tight and laser-focused on the mission. Why did your team decide to take the leap and invest your time and money in implementing EOS®?

When you think of nonprofits, ‘entrepreneurial’ is not the first word that comes to mind. That being said, it makes sense that if you run your nonprofit like a business, then you can sustain your mission and maximize the impact you are having. We can borrow things from the for-profit world that will make us a more efficient nonprofit. 

This line of thinking was especially applicable at The Well, which has experienced tremendous growth in the past eight years under Donny’s leadership. The upside of that growth is, of course, helping more people and expanding our services to meet the needs of our community. And with all of that growth, there were some growing pains, like old systems and processes that did not scale with the growth we experienced. 

When it came to the prior three year strategic plan, the leadership team and the Board didn't have the best experience. The day-of facilitation was great, and we felt good coming up with the plan. It was in the follow-up to achieve that plan where  there was no help or structure to continue the momentum to meet those goals. 

Implementing EOS® meant that we were able to retain our big, mission-oriented goals, and also have a way to get there.

What would you say are the biggest benefits of running EOS® at a nonprofit like The Well?

I think the most powerful thing is documenting the company’s vision. Discovering the core values, dialing in and wordsmithing it so that it is exactly true to the company is a very powerful exercise. Any nonprofit would find their values have always been there, but it’s so clarifying to bring them to the surface.  Our leadership team has learned we have to take the time to work ON the business versus IN the business. We’ve already seen the benefits of really digging in and ensuring everybody understands the vision. We're creating an environment of transparency and trust, and everyone is working and making decisions that funnel to that big, hairy, audacious goal.

Also, EOS® helps organizations get crystal clear about who is doing what, which is so important and less common than you’d hope. When you have a smaller team, there’s a tendency to build unicorn seats because some people have to wear so many more “hats”. That can lead to someone who has one title, but they do three or four different roles. Using that as a model for accountability really doesn’t scale too far. EOS® helps us be more intentional in how we're dividing our work and who owns what.

When you first started with EOS® at The Well, how were you tracking your implementation?

Our implementer, David, had recommended, so we started with that platform. Over time, it became clear that our To Dos weren’t really being integrated into our team’s other tools. There was some confusion about the best place to store them — within, Teams, or Outlook. 

Donny and our Director of Operations, Becky Chapp, weren’t quite satisfied with our experience on that platform, so they kept an eye out for a alternative. They discovered Strety, and found that it integrated with Teams and Microsoft. The integration piece was really the catalyst of why we switched from to Strety. 

What would you say are the biggest differences you’ve seen since running EOS® on Strety versus

The integration is huge for us. We use Microsoft Planner, so being able to create To Dos and organize them within the context of a meeting and then track them throughout the week in Planner has been great. 

I would also say the Strety team’s engagement has been above and beyond. We definitely take advantage of the chat feature, reaching out to Strety’s team with questions here and there, and they are very responsive and helpful. 

We also had the experience of asking your team about whether a feature was available or possible. It didn’t exist at the time, but pretty soon after we asked about it, your team released the feature and reached out personally to let us know it had been implemented. That kind of follow-up and customer service is basically unheard of in my experience with SaaS vendors.

Are there any Strety features you use that help with things outside of your EOS® implementation?

We’re really enjoying using Strety for 1:1 meetings. The structure is really helpful and it’s nice to have an area to capture notes or to have issues that aren’t necessarily tied to your L10s. We’re loving those agendas and continuously exploring the ways we can use them.

Do you have any advice for other nonprofits that are considering implementing EOS®?

The perspective I have of moving from for-profit to nonprofit has definitely reinforced the idea that a successful, effective nonprofit can borrow a thing or two from the business world while remaining true to their mission.

At a lot of nonprofits, people wear multiple hats and they have a less robust operating budget. I can attest that having a business operating system can help arrange any type of organization’s team to where they feel empowered to do all of the things within a structure that has been proven by other SME’s (small- to medium-sized enterprises). There’s also the challenge of scaling a smaller operation to a bigger one that is made much easier when EOS® tools are learned and implemented.

Also, if you're already investing in the operating system, my advice is to invest in a platform that will support it. Why try to build from scratch what Strety’s team has already built for you! It will make your job so much easier, especially  when you’ve got hard work to get done.

Thank you, Dana! To learn more about The Well and the incredible work they do, visit their website here. If you’re just getting started on your EOS® journey and are looking for resources to get organized, check out our free starter pack download here.


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