Non-Profit Advocacy Organization Supports Growth with Interim COO

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) had grown quickly, almost doubling in size within a five year span. The organization was at a critical point in its transformation and needed a strategic plan along with processes and infrastructure to support current and future growth.

Strategic Alignment | Improved Communication | Boosted Staff Morale | New Processes | Database Migration

BACKGROUND: National Alliance on Mental Illness is a nonprofit dedicated to education, advocacy, and providing support for families facing mental illness. NAMI was founded in 1979 by a group of families gathered around a table to support each other and have a bigger voice in public policy.

With 500 local affiliates, 80 state organizations, and a growing group of employees, the organization has quickly become the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization.

THE CHALLENGE: In the midst of change, NAMI was experiencing the growing pains that many nonprofit organizations face as they scale to the next level. There were open questions around their best future, the systems and tools needed to make the team more effective, how to improve communication among the team and affiliates, improve project management, and ensure a clear decision making process. When the full-time COO resigned, it was clear that a strong leader was needed to provide operational expertise to move the organization forward.

What: National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides advocacy, education, support and public awareness so that all individuals and families affected by mental illness can build better lives.

INDUSTRY: Healthcare & Advocacy Nonprofit

ROLE: Interim COO

LOCATION: United States

As the organization moved into the new year with low staff morale, the Board and executive team recognized that hiring a new COO would take several months. To help manage operations in the meantime, NAMI turned to InterimExecs.

-Angela Kimball, National Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness

SOLUTION: NAMI worked with InterimExecs to find a nonprofit Interim COO who could help the organization through this major transition. We deployed Interim COO and RED Team member, Anna Prow, who has deep experience running nonprofit organizations from democracy and governance to healthcare.

Anna jumped in to embed with the team, identify gaps, set a plan for the future, while serving as an advisor and partner to the CEO. She applied her methodology and belief that infrastructure should include more than business systems and that a nonprofit should ensure systems align with program strategies, culture, and leadership.

“The leadership team was immediately impressed by Anna’s striking intelligence, calm confidence, and frankness. And we were encouraged by her focus on organizational culture and determining what was needed in a permanent position.”

– Angela Kimball, National Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness

Less than two weeks after Anna stepped into the Interim COO role, NAMI’s CEO resigned, and the National Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, Angela Kimball stepped into the Acting CEO role while a permanent search took place. As the organization faced a list of new challenges, Anna stood alongside Angela to articulate and implement plans.

Nine months later, Anna helped NAMI welcome a new full-time Chief Executive Officer who stepped into a much more powerful organization. As Interim COO, Anna had helped pull off a national convention within just 40 business days of the CEO’s resignation, tackled a daunting database migration, developed new processes and habits, adopted a new strategic plan, and improved staff morale.

“Anna was far more than an interim COO. She was a true part of the leadership team and helped create cohesion and focus that enabled staff to rise to their best selves. Anna deftly managed to be both a phenomenal support to the leadership team and to play a highly active role in managing the organization. She was integral to our not only surviving a very tough year, but emerging stronger than ever and with a sense of collaboration and commitment to success”

– Angela Kimball, National Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness

I’m so grateful I could work with NAMI during this time of growth and transition. I’m honored that I may have been helpful to that amazing team by bringing some executive capacity and change management expertise to help create conditions for their next chapters.

-Anna Prow, Interim COO & InterimExecs RED Team

Productivity Boost with Improved Business Systems

A key contribution was cohering and enabling the senior leadership team. By pulling together and focusing those talents and insights — and by clarifying their roles in decision-making and internal communications — internal equity, planning, and transparency were greatly improved across the organization.

Strategic Alignment with New Opportunities

An added bonus was developing a practicable due diligence process for new opportunities. This allowed the organization to examine the strategic alignment of the potential initiatives and estimate the true organizational costs to deliver. This process also brought implementors in early enough in the process so they could advise on feasibility, inform planning, and identify assets for implementation.

To learn how to help your nonprofit organization contact InterimExecs here or call
+1 (847) 849-2800 for a confidential discussion.

See More NonProfit Case Studies

Interim CEO Boosts Results & Aligns NonProfit Consortium of Member Network of 18 Eye Banks READ MORE >

Non-Profit CEO & InterimExecs RED Team Member Transforms Tourette Association of America READ MORE >

Part-Time CFO Helps Chapter of United Way Assess Finance, Create Structure, and Capture New Opportunities