Princeton Community Housing gets a makeover

Management consultants help agency streamline operations.

By: David Campbell
   Princeton Community Housing has taken a "new leap forward" with the help of nonprofit-management consulting group National Executive Service Corps of New Jersey.
   This is what PCH Vice President Linda Mather concluded after streamlining PCH’s operation based on a 2002 organizational study prepared by the nonprofit consultancy.
   "We were most impressed with the thoroughness of the NESC team, particularly with the time it spent with each board member in order to really understand Princeton Community Housing," Ms. Mather said.
   PCH is a volunteer organization that oversees more than 400 affordable- and subsidized-housing units in Princeton Township and Princeton Borough.
   According to NESC consultant and Princeton Township resident Bob Levine, "We went and saw what their problems were, made a proposal, and did a very thoroughgoing evaluation of the operation."
   Mr. Levine said his team of consultants worked for about four months with PCH staff at a fee that he described as "nominal," significantly lower, he said, than a typical consulting fee for services like NESC’s, which he said can run as high as $100,000.
   While he said he was bound by confidentiality from discussing specifics, the consultant said PCH’s transformation after implementing the firm’s recommendations has been striking.
   "There’s been a major change in the way PCH operates," Mr. Levine continued.
   Among the changes was a recommended revision of the organization’s mission statement, and the preparation of materials to fully familiarize new members with details of PCH’s operations and bylaws.
   An annual calendar listing the full schedule of board and related meetings was created, and a "social period" at each board meeting to improve member relations was also introduced.
   NESC’s recommendation for the creation of a finance committee was followed, and PCH also created a development committee, which last year conducted the organization’s first comprehensive fund-raising drive that proved quite successful, Ms. Mather said.
   Proceeds from fund-raising helped to implement another major NESC recommendation, the employment of an executive director to serve the existing operations as well as to coordinate an expansion of housing units overseen by the nonprofit group.
   NESC is a New York City-based national organization with consultants operating in around 28 states, Mr. Levine said.
   NESC of New Jersey’s corps of more than 100 consultants, who come from the ranks of retired senior-level business executives, volunteer their time and experience to help nonprofit organizations in the state improve their management skills, according to a statement by NESC.
   Clients include state and local governments, schools and colleges, as well as health-care, social-services, cultural and performing-arts and human-resources agencies, NESC said.
   Projects have covered issues like long-range and annual business planning, computer technology and information management, board selection and training, mentoring and other general business practices, the organization said.