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Structuring for scale-up success: Organizational structure for sustainability & scale

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Structuring for scale-up success: Organizational structure for sustainability & scale

By Meeta Sharma-Holt, vice president of programs and strategic partnerships at Techbridge Girls. This is the third in a four-blog series: read the first blog, Structuring for scale-up success: Techbridge Girls shares lessons from its 5-year scale-up of STEM programs, and the second blog, Structuring for scale-up success: Partnerships first.

Techbridge Girls approached our organizational structure with an eye towards long-term sustainability and the rapid scaling of our afterschool model. To support each new geographic office, we hired an executive director (E.D.)in each of our three regions to oversee local fundraising, operations, and programming. The E.D.s supervised a small staff who delivered the afterschool programs. The E.D.s were also supported by a team in our Oakland, Calif. headquarters, comprising a small national development office, communications support, accounting/finance staff, a program design team, and a human resources consultant.

Expanding to serve girls across the country significantly stretched TBG's infrastructure. The growth of each new region and individual program sites meant triple the number of staff to hire, onboard, and support, which proved very taxing to the existing human resources and finance team. Equally challenging was the need for additional funding to sustain the new regional offices, as the NSF funds reduced each successive year, and two major national funders sunsetted. Finally, in year three of our scale-up, our founder and CEO retired, creating  a leadership and strategic planning gap that left supporters unsure of our future and staff without a clear mission.

To address these challenges, we diversified our fundraising priorities and focused on professionalizing our team of internal fundraisers. To do this, we provided fundraising training, added administrative staff in each region, and used our fundraising database and its data analysis capabilities more effectively.

Staff structure also shifted once the new CEO was in place. The new structure ensured each regional E.D. was supported by staff who could advance both our direct services and professional development programs, providing the capacity to pursue a broader programmatic menu and more diverse funders. As each regional team gained new administrative staff, we began building out our national development staff and finance team. These changes, along with stronger institutional fundraising campaigns, helped us achieve a balanced budget by year four and grew the regional offices’ ability to be financially self-sustaining.

We have remained open to modifying the duties of staff positions as new needs arise. We recognize that just as we strive to prepare our girls for careers in the rapidly changing STEM fields, we as an organization must be adaptable and ready to embrace change.

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