Immaculate Heart Community

Strategic Planning

Immaculate Heart Community (IHC) is a multi-program social service provider in Southern California with a mission of social justice and public benefit for disenfranchised individuals. In 2016, with the organization facing impending funding cuts in one of our core ministries, IHC’s leadership recognized the need to focus intently on remodeling the operations structure of Casa Esperanza, in Panorama City. Board Chair Joan De Francesco turned to ESC to conduct an Organizational Assessment at Casa Esperanza to develop a roadmap to improve and save this ministry.


Founded in 1970, Immaculate Heart Community (IHC) is a faith-based nondenominational community whose mission is “to provide individuals with access to truth, dignity and full human development through diverse ministries and services.”When IHC originally formed, the founding members prioritized community input and involvement, so they created a horizontal decision-making model in which the Community members would make significant decisions as an entire group. Over the years, as the Community grew to more than 100 members, the IHC board realized their decision-making model was creating bottlenecks, preventing their five ministries from efficiently providing much-needed services to their constituents. The Community especially struggled to make key decisions that would keep the Casa Esperanza ministry operational. Casa Esperanza had become a vital resource to the families living in the Blythe Street neighborhood in Panorama City, a community deeply impacted by poverty, drugs and violence. With major funding cuts affecting the ministry, Board Chair Joan De Francesco and the IHC leadership team began working with ESC on an intensive Organizational Assessment project.


ESC consultants Richard Thaler and Al Linton worked with Joan to prioritize the goals of the assessment. Their first step was to evaluate Casa Esperanza’s program model and financial operations. Al performed a comprehensive financial analysis of Casa Esperanza, and Richard dug deep into the ministry’s challenges, surveyed key stakeholders and researched solutions to determine next steps for Casa Esperanza. Richard presented their findings to the Community’s Assembly in June 2016, identifying an urgent need to hire additional professional staff and to restructure the ministry’s program model in a way that would enable it to partner with similar organizations in the Blythe Street area to provide coordinated services.


The Board then re-contracted with ESC to have Richard perform an Organizational Assessment of the Community as a whole, addressing the overall governance and culture of IHC. Richard was joined by ESC consultants Sandy Tauber-Rosen and Gene Tuch who collected data about each ministry’s services and impact, helped interview candidates for new positions and evaluated the overall financial status of the organization. The results were eye opening and jumpstarted a “paradigm shift” for the Board leadership. It was paramount that IHC change their decision-making model and hire new staff to manage the administration and operations of all five ministries. For the important post of Chief Operating Officer, Richard and ESC consultant Janet Schulman referred IHC to Third Sector Company, a national firm focused on nonprofit leadership and executive searches, who connected them to successful candidate Darrell Paulk. Joan praised the fact that Richard was “honest and sensitive” in his approach, guiding the team through difficult decision making processes and making sure their decisions still maintained the integrity of the organization’s founding values of leadership and service.


Today, Immaculate Heart Community is well on the path to long-term sustainability. The board and staff are focused on implementing major changes to the leadership structure of the organization to increase the effectiveness of IHC’s five ministries. At the same time, they have embraced new trends and ideas in their own community and have organized commissions to address immigration, the environment and justice for women. These issues are timely and have widened the reach of their community, which in turn has contributed to its continued growth. The leadership team also hopes to partner with more organizations to provide services that would otherwise be inaccessible to their constituents.


Joan is inspired by Immaculate Heart Community’s renewed organizational model and program strategy. She believes ESC came at a crucial time in the organization: “We were in crisis and ESC was a great partner.” As a result of the Organizational Assessment, Joan and her fellow board members have identified opportunities for growth and improvement. Everyone has a defined role and responsibility to carry out Immaculate Heart Community’s mission. Recently, IHC re-contracted with ESC for a Fund Development consultation so that IHC can continue to grow and serve the individuals who depend on the vital services that IHC’s ministries provide.