An affordable housing and community development nonprofit: Assessing a new approach to modernizing business and operating models across a network

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Partnering for Success: Assessing a new approach to modernizing business and operating models across a network


Understand the effectiveness of a pilot program happening across a network segment of 44 sites


Evidence of the project’s success led to an expansion of the program and contributed to the ultimate goal of modernizing practices across an entire network of nonprofit organizations


Our client, a congressionally chartered, nonprofit leader in the affordable housing and community development field, serves a network of nearly 250 member organizations. Early in 2012, leaders in many of these network organizations recognized the need to develop a new way of doing business in the face of decreasing traditional funding sources and an evolving affordable housing and community development landscape. To help network members modernize their business and operating models, systems, and practices, the partner launched a pilot program, the Sustainable Homeownership Project (SHP). Beginning in 2012, the multi-phase pilot program led participants through a process of strengthening operational processes, diversifying revenue, improving customer experience, boosting data capacity, and more.

To understand whether the SHP pilot was working for the 44 network members testing it, Community Wealth Partners was engaged to develop a performance measurement system for the program. For many of the participating network members, this was the first time they collected, analyzed, and made decisions based on data on their services’ cost per customer, the number of sales leads they maintained, how frequently they were referred by customers, and other metrics commonly used in businesses. We partnered with the organizations to expand their capacity to understand the data, identify and address anomalies, and develop a baseline against which they could compare their growth over time. This opened the organizations up to new ways of thinking about their work and how they could better serve their communities in a more financially sustainable way.

In addition to working with network members, we also worked closely with the key staff on the SHP team to identify performance indicators that would provide regular insight into how this new approach was being adopted by the pilot organizations and how those organizations’ performance was improving as a result. We then worked with the SHP team to conduct surveys, interviews, and focus groups in order to collect qualitative and quantitative data from participating network members and technical assistance providers. We analyzed the data and identified key lessons learned to inform changes to the SHP program design.

To support the SHP team’s evolving needs as the project advanced toward a mainstream model, we served as a close thought partner to the team, conducted research on top-of-mind issues, shared our ongoing findings to help the SHP team learn, and helped them use those learnings to adapt the pilot design. We advised the team on how they could use the performance data to clearly articulate the program’s return on investment and build a business case for growing and scaling the program after the pilot ended. Using the learnings from our performance measurement work, the SHP team began a coordinated effort with their internal corporate data team to continue tracking and evaluating the results of the expanding program.

Modernizing practices

across a network


By the end of 2017, the network members participating in SHP saw a 43% reduction in the cost to serve each customer, a 95% increase in the number of customers served, and a 64% increase in the number of people buying new homes. The SHP team refined the design of SHP and used results like these to prove the program’s value and success, leading our client to expand the program to a mainstream model to serve more network members.

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