The Great Recession has hit many American businesses hard, but the shaky times have been even tougher for countless nonprofits nationwide. Along with the economic downturn has come a significant drop in government funding and donations for countless nonprofit organizations like AbilityFirst, a Pasadena based agency with 24 locations throughout Southern California. Founded in 1926, and originally called “The Crippled Children’s Society of Southern California,” AbilityFirst provides programs and services to help children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities reach their full potential throughout their lives. Despite its good track record, how the organization could continue to provide high quality programs became a sobering question in 2008, when it lost hundreds of thousands in state dollars. Suddenly, many services and core programs were in jeopardy, including a successful, 60-year-old summer camp, benefiting 600 people with special needs.


Orange, CA
Casestudy Abilityfirst
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Services Used

The MAP Management System

MAP Workshops


$20 Million in Annual Sales

Increased Staffing


It was both a blessing and curse that the loss of funding happened when it did. At the time, AbilityFirst was navigating the challenges of creating a different business model for the camp and implementing new strategic directives for the agency. With everything in-flux, AbilityFirst’s sudden financial crisis really rocked the boat. It gave Lori Gangemi, the agency’s CEO, a definitive incentive to seek help for the organization. In February 2010, she attended MAP’s 2.5-day Program in Newport Beach. After completing the workshop, she felt confident that the MAP process could help AbilityFirst survive and thrive. She also connected with one of MAP’s senior consultants, who immediately started facilitating the MAP Management SystemTM for Gangemi and her management team. Specifically, MAP’s consultant helped AbilityFirst set up Vital Factor Team meetings, which established clear goals, expectations and an accountability system among the team. Along with this coaching, the MAP philosophy, and all its tools and resources, Gangemi ushered in a stronger, more aligned management approach. Greater emphasis on the “Vital Few” goals bolstered collaboration, focus and success. For example, only a few months after being introduced to MAP’s process, AbilityFirst implemented a new, stronger financial model, and its summer camp enrollment reached 360. Months before its first anniversary of working with MAP, AbilityFirst was already on track for exceeding its enrollment goal of 500 campers for summer 2011, and has created metrics to access, address and communicate the quality of its programs/services to participants and donors alike.


There’s no doubt that with MAP’s coaching and its system in place, AbilityFirst has quickly made great strides toward becoming a very progressive, proactive nonprofit. The agency has pulled together as a team, and improved the communication and support necessary for achieving many goals and successes. Gangemi has also cultivated her own leadership style and professional skills. Taking a risk, she has rejected “business as usual” tactics and embraced the Vital Factors® System, establishing accountability and creating alignment among the organization and its people. She has also learned more about her direct reports – specifically their unique management styles, values and goals. With that greater understanding, she has empowered a stronger, more cohesive team that’s committed to and trusting in the MAP approach. AbilityFirst takes a more confident approach in allocating financial and human resources toward the Vital Factors that enable predictable profitability and greater efficiencies. Gangemi says it’s now easier to determine the Vital Factors and how best to measure these key indicators of the agency’s health. With the strength of its people and MAP’s support in place, AbilityFirst will persevere in achieving the desired results.