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Realizing Frame-Breaking Programs with Safe Horizon


Safe Horizon is the largest domestic violence and victims services organization in the country, with a budget of $55 million. With 57 locations throughout the 5 boroughs of New York City, Safe Horizon touches the lives of more than 250,000 children, adults, and families affected by crime and abuse each year, by providing shelters for domestic violence victims and homeless youth, emergency hotlines, legal support, child advocacy centers, a counseling center, community programs, and more.

Since its last strategic plan 5 years prior, Safe Horizon had become more focused on its core businesses, increased its program standardization, implemented a client-centered approach, become increasingly evidence-based, engaged in effective fundraising, made major improvements in infrastructure, reduced its costs and boosted efficiencies, and continued to further its position of national leadership. Yet, with all these successes and advances, Safe Horizon’s budget had grown only slightly. This led Safe Horizon to ask how it could grow further, as major unmet needs among its target population remained, and leadership wanted to be less resource-constrained.


Working closely with Safe Horizon staff, we:

  1. Analyzed data on program activity, funding sources and financials

  2. Facilitated a full day Board retreat to collect input on possible growth opportunities for Safe Horizon

  3. Interviewed staff, funders, and field experts to understand Safe Horizon’s unique value proposition, its ultimate goals, and frame-breaking or unexpected ways to move forward and grow

  4. Conducted research and interviews to assess the funding landscape for Safe Horizon’s current work and the amount of public and private funds available

  5. Prepared case studies of other organizations that had achieved growth in interesting ways, including partnering with others, looking more broadly at prevention, and starting a movement

  6. Facilitated ideation sessions with staff to assemble a range of game-changing ideas that Safe Horizon could pursue, testing ideas and hypotheses gathered during earlier work as well as seeking examples of new approaches Safe Horizon might take

  7. Looked at options and justification for a possible merger or joint venture

  8. Conducted additional research and expert interviews to test the interest in and fundability of various program options

  9. Developed a detailed strategy for launching new program-building initiatives at Safe Horizon

  10. Defined staffing and operational changes needed

  11. Developed 5-year financial projections under 3 scenarios (high, medium, and low growth) and presented promising revenue options for the initiatives

  12. Created action plans for each new program or initiative, outlining key steps for each and who would do what, by when


During the planning process, Safe Horizon decided upon a set of five program-building initiatives, paired with four strategic initiatives focusing primarily on internal processes. This strategic direction sets Safe Horizon on the road to a more sustainable financial future. The program-building initiatives expand around Safe Horizon’s current work, and include an increased focus on the most vulnerable and underserved victims and their greatest needs.

This set of initiatives, together, is intended to enhance the Safe Horizon brand, breathe new energy into the organization, and access new sources of funding. The plan is also designed to lead to improved results and greater impact, so that Safe Horizon can play a leadership role in preventing and ending violence in our families and communities and bringing healing to those who need it.

Once the strategic direction was finalized, Wellspring worked with Safe Horizon to outline specific action steps, assign responsibilities among staff, and lay out detailed resource requirements. We also planned for a staggered implementation timeline, based on each initiative’s potential impact, funding feasibility, and ease of implementation.


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