MaxCI: Maximizing Community
Short-Hand Strategic Plan
Benedict Di Salvo, vice-president and CEO (l) and Enis Ragland,
senior representative, are working with non-profits to help them
self-assess in a timely and inexpensive manner.
because what you don’t know we are going to teach you before you become a 501(c)(3). So they were pretty direct. Everyone needed
finance. We brought in a person to teach a course on finance. A few people needed fundraising. A few people needed marketing. We had
one-on-ones and one-on-threes. It was very successful.”
All of the neighborhood centers survived the transition and Di Salvo felt he was on to something. So he took some time fine-tuning the
assessment tool and making it quantitative and cane up with an Internet-based assessment tool that non-profits can use to quickly assess
themselves in a cost and time-effective manner.
“The long and the short of it is it was designed to make non-profits stronger and better so that they can better deliver their services and
products,” Di Salvo said. “It’s not so much about the organization as it is the people whom they are serving. The better they are, the better
the services, the better the programs, the better the constituents are served. That’s what we are talking about, making people’s lives
better. If you believe non-profits are good organizations, then you better believe that they had better provide the best services. Money is
tight. This is a good way to go to prove yourself and it also is a way of enhancing the future of the organization and its possibilities. It really
does serve the community that way.”
The MaxCI assessment survey asks questions in nine different areas depending on the sophistication and complexity of the non-profit.
Each individual completes the survey in strict confidence. Qualtrics, a statistics organization on the UW-Madison campus performs the
computerized assessment and sends the results back to the non-profit. The whole process can be started and completed in as little time as
“More importantly, it is a time saver because you can do it online,” said Enis Ragland, senior representative of MaxCI. “You can save
money because you don’t have to try and get 12 board members together with a consultant whom you have to pay and their time is cost-
prohibitive for a lot of non-profits. But being able to do the survey online saves money and is also confidential. You can answer questions
honestly and openly. It makes you think very deeply about your organization because it requires that. I think that is one of the valuable
things about it. And in today’s technology age, it is almost instant response. You get an e-mail back from Qualtrics basically saying, ‘These
are your scores. These are the assumptions made based on your answers. And here are the recommendations for your organization to
move forward on.”
The MaxCI assessment can also be used by funding sources. The Wisconsin Arts Board made a decision to provide a grant to four African
American arts organizations located in Milwaukee. Other “traditional” majority arts organizations started to complain. The Wisconsin Arts
Board had the directors of the four African American arts organizations take the test.
“The Wisconsin Arts Board really loved it because it is a third-party assessment,” Di Salvo said. “The executive director sent out an
invitation after they took the assessment and they were ‘deemed worthy of funding.’ It was sent out to 60-75 heavy-hitters in Milwaukee. It
said that the non-profits were deemed worthy of funding and now it was the heavy hitters’ turn to step up to the plate. Someone from the
arts board told me last week that there was a meeting and the four women who completed the assessment in Milwaukee came up to her.
Unsolicited they said, ‘That was great. At first, it made us think about the organization. But we have done so much better because of it.’ I
went, ‘Yes!’ It made me feel good because everyone won. The four African American arts organizations won. The Wisconsin Arts Board
won. And the people who said that they weren’t getting enough money won because they realized, ‘Wait a minute. There is something going
on here that we don’t appreciate.’ So no one was angry with the decision. It really helps accelerate the achievement of their mission.”
“Funders can use it as a pre-screening tool when new organizations come up,” Ragland said. “They can have them take the MaxCI
assessment and then say, ‘You have the skills and ability to carry out the mission that we are funding you for.’ Or the funder can say, ‘You
are weak in these areas. We’ll work with you to strengthen them so that you can carry out the mission that we are funding you for. So it is
an invaluable tool for both funders and non-profits.”
MaxCI is not using the assessment as a backdoor way to get consulting jobs. It will refer the non-profits to a list of consultants if that is
what their assessment calls for.
“We provide the assessment survey — the assumptions and recommendations — and then we’ll come in and explain the assessment and
answer any questions that the organization may have regarding the assessment,” Ragland said. “Then they may need to bring in a
consultant to help move them. If they need to improve their marketing, for example, they may want to bring in someone who can help them
put together a plan to improve their marketing. The other thing is this is a good tool for consultants. A consultant can take the MaxCI
assessment survey and if they would like, they can give it to an organization that they are interested in working with. The assessment tells
the consultant the strengths, limitations and weaknesses of that particular organization and then they will know where to focus.”
And a focused game plan is the name of the game to survive in today’s tight economic climate.
For more information, visit MaxCI’s website at www.maxci.net.
By Jonathan Gramling
Back in 1998, the clock was ticking on United Neighborhood
Centers. Every neighborhood center was scheduled to become an
independent non-profit on January 1, 1999 and no one was sure what
they needed to survive. Benedict Di Salvo was hired by the city of
Madison to dismember UNC and to help the individual centers
prepare for this new exciting, but very challenging time. Would they
survive the separation process?
“I think I had 12-14 months to do it,” said Di Salvo, vice president
and CEO of MaxCI. “I wondered how we were going to do that
because of the disparity of sophistication. Some knew what they
were doing in some areas. Some didn’t know anything about
anything in any area. So what we did was come up with this very
unsophisticated narrative with 9-10 business functions. I said
describe where you are in this particular function such as
fundraising. Are you here, here, or here? Don’t pump yourself up