Communities In Schools: Scaling impact while supporting financial sustainability

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Communities In Schools: Scaling impact while supporting financial sustainability


Seize an opportunity created by new legislation to expand impact and bring in new revenue


Two new products that, in the first year since rollout, have enabled the organization to expand to five new markets and bring in $500,000 in additional revenue


In 2015, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, which included a provision clarifying that federal funds can be used support programs offering non-academic support to struggling students, including supporting students’ social and emotional learning. This change opened the door for Communities In Schools to consider opportunities to scale its model of surrounding students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and succeed in life. Communities In Schools already worked in 2,300 schools to support about 1.5 million students through its affiliate network across 25 states and the District of Columbia, and the organization saw many possibilities for how it could sustainably increase its impact now that the legislation allowed schools and districts to use federal funds in new ways.

Community Wealth Partners partnered with Communities In Schools to help them assess the many possibilities they saw and hone in on the ones that were best positioned to advance their strategy, reach more students, and do so in a way that was financially sustainable. We worked with staff and board members to develop early hypotheses about new ways they could offer programs or services to school districts, schools, and educators. We then conducted targeted market research with a diverse array of potential customers and beneficiaries to assess market needs, explore which of the organization’s assets best meet those needs, and consider the social impact, scale, and revenue potential of various opportunities. Once the board and staff aligned on the strongest opportunities to pursue, we developed a plan for Communities In Schools to prototype and pilot some efforts in the short term—to test concepts and learn—as well as a longer-term plan to create new products.

From this work, Communities In Schools decided to launch two products:

  1. licensing of its in-school support model.
  2. professional development courses for school and district staff.

Prototyping in the short term,

planning for the long term


“Thanks to Community Wealth Partner’s interviews and analysis, the licensure product has quickly gained traction with school districts and state education leaders,” said Dale Erquiaga, president and CEO of Communities in Schools.  “In addition, Community Wealth Partners’ research helped us develop targeted curriculum for four professional development courses.”

In the first year, these products helped Communities in Schools extend its reach into five new markets and brought in an additional $500,000 in revenue.

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