Lester helps nonprofits and foundations think about the direction they're headed and how to move in that direction. He specializes in strategy development and business planning, working collaboratively with clients to design detailed, but practical, plans for the future. He is a co-author of The Nonprofit Business Plan. Lester excels in helping organizations explore tough issues and address what might otherwise be the unrecognized barriers to success.
"It's all about connecting with the client. Over the years, I've found that working with the issues I care most about isn't as important as working with clients who bring passion and thoughtfulness to the mission they serve. Nothing is more satisfying than helping high-impact leaders move their work and their organization to the next level."
Lester's keen sense of both big-picture strategy and everyday organizational dynamics is informed by his past experience, which includes both being an executive director and serving as a secretary. He is proud of his achievements as an executive director of a nonprofit serving the LGBT community, where he helped grow the organization and its ability to advance a mission he cares about directly. He values his time as a secretary, a role he wears proudly because he sees how it shares many elements of consulting in its focus on providing flexible support to enable the success of others. His consulting clients have included Y USA, John Muir/Mt. Diablo Community Health Fund, San Diego Natural History Museum, Win/Win Network, and the Sobrato Family Foundation.
"I see my successes as being one client at a time. For each, I try to help them establish a shared (board and staff) agreement on direction and a clear path to move forward."
When Lester talks about projects that exemplify this type of success, he always includes working with the Trust for Public Land (TPL) and its Parks for People programs. Through that project, Lester guided the development of a cohesive strategic framework for a collection of local programs operating nationally, agreement on expansion priorities, and adoption of an implementation plan.
"What I loved about that project, in addition to working with really smart leaders, was that it required a strategic grounding to make sense of TPL's role around urban parks. We spent half the project developing a comprehensive program strategy derived from current strengths and the needs in the field. That allowed us to then prioritize expansion needs and focused our business planning effort. The work ultimately resulted in TPL receiving a multi-million dollar grant to move its work forward."
Lester's background includes nonprofit management and public policy. Prior to joining La Piana in 2005, Lester was director of government and public affairs at Pacific Gas & Electric Company and served as executive director of Community United Against Violence. He was also legislative assistant to San Francisco County Supervisor Angela Alioto. Lester has an MBA from Golden Gate University, a BA in Religious Studies from Stanford University, and also studied at the University of Salamanca. Lester's nonprofit board service includes SPUR, Chinese for Affirmative Action, and Intergroup Clearinghouse.
Lester is available as a speaker on nonprofit strategy. He has presented sessions for such diverse hosts as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program, the National Association of Independent Schools, and the Society of Animal Welfare Administrators.
For a print-friendly version of Lester's bio, click here.
Learn more about Lester in this La Piana Consulting staff interview.