When Compass Center for Women and Families (Compass Center) sought to broaden its reach and strengthen its message, the organization turned to Executive Service Corps of the Triangle (ESC) for help, and they got it.

Compass Center was created in 2012 with the merger of two organizations, the Women’s Center, started in 1979, and the Family Violence Prevention Center of Orange County, founded in 2000. Even four years after that merger, the new brand and the combined mission needed to be strengthened and clarified.

That led to the organization contacting ESC, and two consultants went to work to help. The consultants set up eight sessions on strategic planning, two focus group meetings and multiple critical issues discussions.

“It was a really collaborative process,” said Cordelia Heaney, executive director of Compass Center, as plans and solutions were guided but not dictated.

That made the process more effective because it was a shared exercise involving a committee of Compass Center staff and board members, as well as discussion  with the full staff.

Compass Center operates with a staff of 11 full-time and three part-time employees and also relies on the work of more than 200 community volunteers. The organization provides three main areas of service to the community: domestic violence crisis and prevention, self-sufficiency services and teen health programs. About 5,000 clients are served every year, and approximately 1,400 of them are victims of domestic violence.

“We empower people to navigate through challenging times in their lives,” Heaney said. That was codified in a new mission statement developed with ESC assistance: “Compass Center for Women and Families helps all people navigate their journey to self-sufficiency, safety and health. We empower individuals and promote equal access to opportunity regardless of gender or economic status. Our services include career and financial education, domestic violence crisis and prevention programs, assistance with legal resources and youth health programs.”

Compass Center operates on an annual budget of $790,000. About 55 percent of its funds come from state and local governments. For the rest, it relies on contributions from individuals and grants from foundations. So, telling its story is vital to fundraising, growth and gaining the volunteers who contribute so much to the organization’s work. “We want to make clear not just what we do,” said Heaney, “but why we do it.”

Laura Morrison, who was board chair of Compass Center when the ESC consulting contract began, said, “Our goal was to get name recognition and communicate with the community who we are and what we do.”

ESC guidance is helping now as the organization works to achieve that and other aims.

“Our ESC consultants asked the tough questions and pointed us toward our goal,” said Morrison. “They were awesome.”

By setting goals and steps to achieve them, Heaney said, “The process really helped us build a road map for the next three years. I would give our consulting experience a 10 out of 10.”