What clients are saying about our work together:
A weekend of exceptional training and technical assistance…
Over 60 representatives – including board and staff from a broad cross-section of Ketchikan nonprofits – willingly “gave-up” parts of a sunny Friday and Saturday to gather for a weekend of exceptional training and technical assistance hosted by the Ketchikan Community Foundation.… Sara’s engaging and interactive presentations provided strategies to improve board effectiveness, practical techniques to navigate difficult conversations and a primer in fundraising. She kept it lively with a mix of formal presentation, small group discussions and time for personal reflection. (A steady supply of chocolate also helped.) The attendees boldly jumped-in with both feet to learn how to expand the impact of their individual nonprofit organizations. Sara’s presentation style allowed the right mix of small group work and formal instruction. Reading the evaluations after the training, it was clear that the attendees found the experience to be valuable, energizing and highly beneficial.
~ Ricardo Lopez, Program Officer, Alaska Community Foundation
We’d love to work with you again!
Thank you for your excellent workshop facilitation at the Legislative Summit. Many people approached me during the week to say how much they enjoyed the session and that they made great connections with other participants. I certainly appreciate the time you took to research, understand, and tailor the workshop to our audience, and we’d love to work with you again!
~ Katie Fischer Ziegler, Program Manager, National Conference of State Legislatures
Forrest’s sound advice, timely implementation, and his investment in mentoring has proven invaluable in my business development.
My previous small business enterprise had outgrown its patchwork IT system. Selecting and implementing the right technology platform was a daunting and complex decision. Forrest understood the strategic objectives, and was quickly able to recommend the best fit. He leveraged IT resources similar to what Fortune 500 companies had been using to gain a competitive advantage. He documented specific functional, technical and financial requirements, considering the cost effectiveness of various solutions as well as return on investment. Forrest developed a phased approach, which allowed the company to invest incrementally. Recognizing the challenges of island life and very limited resources, Forrest’s commitment did not end at installation; he graciously provided remote login support, backup systems integration, and he vetted IT contractors to ensure seamless operation. Forrest’s guidance and this stable, powerful IT platform allowed the company to focus on growth for many years.
In my newest company, I was faced with hard choices of selecting an interactive website agency for a grant-funded project. As an insightful and skilled strategic advisor, Forrest guided me through expert negotiating strategies and revisions to a highly technical scope of work. With his guidance, I negotiated a contract and selected an agency whose web design was beautifully executed, on budget, and award-winning. Forrest’s strategic advice, timely implementation, and his commitment to mentoring have proven invaluable in my business development.
~ Deby Santos, Kali Enterprises (Alaska)
We are seeing the work we did in our strategic plan coming to fruition throughout the agency.
As Board President, I couldn’t offer enough praise to the value of services Sara has provided our organization. We are a community and mental health services non-profit organization with 250 staff and a $10M+ annual operating budget. Our board of directors has been through Sara’s board training workshop, and due to it being so effective, we all agreed to budget resources and time for recurring training moving forward. We also took part in a two-day strategic planning session. Sara guided us through the preparation, the retreat, and now the follow-through. We believe wholeheartedly that we are a more unified, engaged, and educated board of directors with Sara’s support and coaching, and we are seeing the work we did in our strategic plan coming to fruition throughout the agency. Sara took the time to really understand our agency, our mission, our efficiencies as well as our inefficiencies, and how to address or overcome challenges in growing our agency, carrying out our mission, and providing the services we do to our community.
~ Erin Reeve, Board President, Community Connections (Alaska)
Sara is a skilled facilitator with a strong background in community-building and grassroots leadership.
Sara is a skilled facilitator with a strong background in community-building and grassroots leadership. She did outstanding work with Parkwood School staff and parents over an 18-month period. She facilitated a series of community discussions for us to envision the school community we want to build and identify where there were areas of strong shared interest. Sara listened carefully, invited diverse views, and carefully tailored the work sessions to our needs and interests. Through this process, parents got really inspired by the vision they were creating, and by the new relationships that were forming among school families. Parent leaders set some priorities and developed some powerful new volunteer-led programs that are bringing kids and families together in interesting and enriching ways. It’s exciting to think about where this work will take the school community over the next few years.
~ Laura Ploudré, Principal, Parkwood Elementary School (Washington)
Sara is possibly the most skilled facilitator I have ever worked with.
Sara Lawson is possibly the most skilled facilitator I have ever worked with. She is smart, creative and understands the importance of relationships. She carefully structures activities and processes that support the goals of the organization she is working with, while maintaining a flexibility that allows for adjustments that address the needs of a work group in the moment.
~ Laurie Thomas, Early Intervention/ Infant Learning Program Manager, State of Alaska
This [planning] process has exponentially increased our focus… This will further arts efforts here for years to come…
Our agency had the pleasure and privilege of working with Sara over an extended six-month period. This was just what we needed to get us jump started. This is an important time for us, and this project brought the staff and board together to understand our motivations, reasons to belong, why we are passionate about art, and what our values, visions, and mission are. It gave us a shared idea of where we want to go, and Sara helped us create an action plan to get there. This process has exponentially increased our focus, our understanding, and our commitment to our goals and what we hope to achieve. This will further arts efforts here for years to come… Sara was great for us, to us, and I use what we came out with every day: ‘good stuff’, as my professor used to say!
~ Jeff Budd, Executive Director, Greater Sitka Arts Council (Alaska)
One of the most thoughtful, intelligent, compassionate, strategic people I know.
Sara is one of the most thoughtful, intelligent, compassionate, strategic people I know. She is truly gifted at listening to people and understanding on a deep level where they are with a particular process. She is an artful communicator and can navigate the most challenging situations with grace and diplomacy. In addition to her consulting work, she teaches non-profit leadership courses at Seattle University, so she has a wonderful engaging teaching style that works very well with boards and other volunteers. She is an amazing executive coach as well. I have used her personally!
~ An independent consultant (Seattle, WA)
Forrest’s assistance came at a crucial point in the growth of Community Connections. He brought a level of technology expertise and experience not easily found…
Forrest Gibson started consulting with Community Connections in approximately 2006. He assessed our organization, its technology requirements and future growth potential. Given his assessment, he developed a technology plan that has served our organization well these past 7 years. Forrest laid a foundation for our network infrastructure that supported our growth from 1 remote site to 4, approximately 30 users to over 70, and allowed for the implementation of tele-psychiatry and VOIP telephone. He positioned our organization such that we were able to maximize technology as the need and opportunity arose. He helped develop our IT Administrator job position, and then helped with the hiring and training process of that new staff. Throughout the next couple years, Forrest was always willing and available to work with our IT administrator as questions arose. Forrest is the unique technology wizard who can talk in layman’s terms. He takes the complicated and makes it simple to understand. As a result, we never felt as if we were “rubber stamping” a recommendation. At all phases, we were able to make fully-informed decisions. Forrest’s assistance came at a crucial point in the growth of Community Connections. He brought a level of technology expertise and experience not easily found in our small, remote, island community of Ketchikan, Alaska. Without Forrest’s contribution, I have no doubt our agency would not be positioned today to utilize technology for service delivery to the extent that we currently do – a huge benefit for our organization of over 250 staff providing services to over 800 customers.
~ Kim Singstad, Business Director, Community Connections (Alaska)
[Sara’s] expertise in the field and strong communication skills really set her apart.
Sara Lawson worked closely with me to refocus our organization as part of an organizational retreat. The advance work she did to understand our organizational structure and the issues we were grappling with as a group reflect her commitment to tailoring her services to client needs. Rather than provide a drive-by style consultation, she scheduled follow-up sessions and provided documentation of the process and central ideas we developed during the retreat to help ensure accountability. Finally, Sara is a terrific person. Her expertise in the field and strong communication skills really set her apart.
~ Janelle Wong, Director, Institute of Public Service, Seattle University
What workshop participants, students, and conference organizers say:
I thought this session was one of the most important sessions I’ve EVER attended at an NDOA conference (or any conference for that matter). So many of us struggle with having courageous conversations, yet it’s the thing that is holding us back from achieving greater success in our organizations, in our careers, and in the sector. Heidi Thomson, [Evelation Consulting] and Sara are both excellent public speakers and their presentation was a fantastic mix of thought-provoking questions, rich audience participation, practical and strategic tools, and active role playing! A perfect combo. Very helpful to have the list of resources and book recommendations so that we can continue our own learning. Both women are role models for their courage in tackling this topic!!
~ Workshop participant in Raising Money Takes Courage: Digging Deep for Success, 2014 conference, Northwest Development Officers Association.
“Interactive style! Loved!!! Facilitators sincerely listen and give ample time for sharing. Loved the leadership plan at end of class.”… “Loved the exercises about beliefs and values; I have more clarity about how I want to show up in the world. Really excellent all the way around.”… “Very interested in future offerings from either or both facilitators!”
~ Workshop participants, Leadership from Within: Cultivating an Authentic Leadership Style, sponsored by 501 Commons (Co-facilitated with Noreen Elbert.)
Thanks for being a presenter at the conference on May 17th. Over all it was a big hit… Your workshop was rated very high – perhaps one of the highest… I hope you’ll consider presenting again next year.
~ Alison McCaffree, E.D., Washington Nonprofits, sponsor of the Washington State Nonprofit Conference.
“Excellent knowledge offering. The boards need this!”… “A great way to start my board membership.”…”Really well presented, very helpful for the novice and experienced.”
~ Workshop participants, “Build your board, Expand your impact”, sponsored by the Ketchikan Community Foundation.
“Loved this session!! Awesome idea!” “Strong workshop with strong, personable presenters.” “My favorite session!”
~ “Happiness at Work” attendees at the 2013 Washington State Nonprofit Conference
“Instead of just scraping the surface, you dug down into the ‘meat’, with details and examples. Much appreciated. It was awesome!”
~ “Happiness at Work” attendee at a full-day workshop presented by the Nonprofit Staff Development Coalition
This workshop has inspired me and given me energy to take back and re-energize my board. I’m on three boards and feel that this material can be applied to all of them.
~ “Effective Boards” workshop participant, Ketchikan, AK
Sara is always engaged and engaging, responsive to students in and out of class, and clearly loves the topic.
~ MPA student in “Nonprofit Governance” course, Seattle University
The course is excellent and very applicable to my current nonprofit experience… Sara is awesome—excellent presentation of the material, great additional resources to supplement the text… Most awesome syllabus—other instructors should use it as a model.
~ MPA student in “Nonprofit Governance” course, Seattle University
Great coverage of a sometimes scary topic!
~”Strategic Fundraising” workshop participant, Ketchikan, AK
[This class] helped me redefine some of the things I thought I knew well.
~ MPA student in “Fundamentals of the Nonprofit Sector”, Seattle University