Author Archives: Penelope Cagney
March 15, 2013, 2:43 pm
As more governments move toward democracy and greater privatization, nongovernmental organizations are popping up in new places—and the worldwide marketplace for consultants to nonprofits is heating up. For instance, some consulting companies now define themselves through a global mission, with international markets and services. And large consulting firms like Accenture have extended their global reach to encompass nonprofits as well as businesses and government.
In addition, existing nonprofit groups, especially giant international organizations are growing fast and need specialized consulting services for new challenges.
Greater individual wealth going to countries outside of Europe and North America has helped fuel this revolution. Bill Gates has been focusing on worldwide concerns, and a growing number of other philanthropists from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East are…
September 19, 2012, 7:13 pm
Among the decisions charities must make when it comes time to hire a fundraising consultant is whether to use someone local or someone outside the community. There are advantages to both.
Locals already know about donors in the community and will not need to be brought up to speed. Board members and staff who have already worked with them may trust and be comfortable with them.
Consultants who have been around a long time, however, even if they’re very good, may have detractors in the community. We’ve all heard the saying that “familiarity breeds contempt.”
Certain kinds of work–like feasibility studies, organizational assessments, board training, and strategic planning—sometimes benefit from the fresh perspective of an outside firm, unencumbered by preconceptions or community politics. An example: One well-known local consultant insisted that a particular donor had not, an…
June 1, 2012, 12:14 pm
When I was in Bologna, Italy, in May, making a presentation at the Festival of Fundraising, I was reminded of two things: First, consulting is less accepted in other parts of the world than it is in the United States. My Italian colleagues told me they were not easily accepted as an important tool for organizational progress. And, second, for the most part consultants in Italy must have management backgrounds, in contrast to the United States, where it is not necessary for those who restrict their practice to fundraising, for example.
Audience members welcomed the opportunity to share their experiences and to learn about what is going on elsewhere.
Have you had a chance to meet with your counterparts in other areas of the world? Do you seek out chances to talk to other nonprofit consultants when you travel, to compare notes? What have you discovered about consulting in other …
April 4, 2012, 8:09 am
Every year at the Association of Fundraising Professionals conference, dozens of consultants and vendors exhibit their services and wares in the conference marketplace. Some have been doing this for decades. But this year, at the conference in Vancouver, many of the exhibitors were of a far more recent vintage, well equipped to help and advise charities that use social media and other technology to raise money.
As professions mature, they have to change with the times, adapting to confront new needs and realities. But it’s a good idea every now and then to look back at our origins, remind ourselves of the spark that led to a whole new line of work, and look how far we’ve come.
Management and fundraising consultants originated around the same time and placein the late 1800s in Michigan.
Early management consultants came from engineering and science. The first known one was…
March 12, 2012, 4:28 pm
The allure of corporate consulting may be on the decline, thanks to changes in the business environment as well as scandals like the indictment of Rajat K. Gupta, a former managing partner for McKinsey & Company, on insider trading.
But consulting for nonprofits is taking a different turn: The number of graduates from top-level business schools entering the nonprofit sector has actually increased. Some students, disillusioned with questionable ethics in the for-profit world and job instability in formerly secure havens like Wall Street, are beginning to work with nonprofits. Many business schools now offer students opportunities to be involved in nonprofit consulting. Last year a new national organization was formed, Students Consulting for Nonprofit Organizations, whose members include respected business schools like Northwestern and Penn State.
Seasoned management consultants…
December 19, 2011, 9:36 am
Consultants are supposed to be thought leaders. To live up to that role, they are always searching for new ways to think about organizations, to serve their clients, and to distinguish themselves from their competitors by producing fresh ideas.
The average life span of a management idea today is about three years—far shorter than 50 years ago, when it was 15 years. In fact, Management Consulting News reports that in just a month’s time the largest 25 consulting firms in the world published almost 500 books and articles.
Because the pressure to produce new thinking is so intense, there is even a subscription service for consultants—White Space—that tracks and analyzes new material and identifies gaps where consultants might best apply their resources to develop new thinking. Some consulting firms are systematic in the research and development of new ideas, and it is …
November 18, 2011, 12:50 pm
As nonprofits have grown in size, complexity, and number, many of the nation’s big management-consulting companies have stepped up their efforts to serve charities and foundations.
Most of the help these companies used to offer came in pro bono assistance. But now they are going beyond that to offer aid for a fee, sometimes through a nonprofit arm and often at a lower cost than they would charge businesses.
Among the companies that have started or expanded specialized nonprofit services in the past dozen years:
Booz Allen started a unit in 2007 to serve nonprofits that is just like any of the other specialty practices within the company.
Monitor Group created the Monitor Institute in 2007 to serve nonprofits. [Editor's note: This corrects an inaccuracy that previously stated the institute was classified as a B corporation.]
Accenture started ADP Accenture Development…
August 30, 2011, 6:10 pm
When most foundations want to strengthen the management of the organizations they support, they hire consultants to work with grantees. They figure that the consultants will help nonprofits grow in their ability to serve the community.
In Phoenix, St. Luke’s Health Initiatives believes in investing directly in the consultants so that local nonprofits of all kinds (not just the foundation’s grantees) will have access to the kind of training they need.
The strategy evolved naturally from other work the foundation supported. It had started an effort called the Technical Assistance Partnership to enlist nonprofits and consultants to help organizations work together to improve specific types of management skills.
In 2005 and 2006, St. Luke’s and the consultants formed a new effort, a learning community, that eventually expanded to include more than 200 members. There are no…
August 29, 2011, 12:25 pm
Some organizations have found a way to get the best out of the nonprofit and business worlds.
A growing number of organizations combine business and nonprofit structures that offer them the best of both nonprofit and for-profit worlds. They can retain profits but are also able to raise money from both shareholders and foundations. As these organizations grow, they present new challenges and new opportunities for consultants.
First, it helps to understand how two of the most popular socially oriented companies are structured:
* Low-profit, limited liability corporations, known as LC3s, were first created in 2008 and are constructed primarily to meet social needs or provide a social benefit. They are not tax-exempt, but they can attract investment dollars and apply for foundation grants. They can retain their profits.
* B (Benefit) corporations are companies that have a…
August 9, 2011, 4:56 pm
Consultants are a huge and growing part of the nonprofit landscape.
By 2018, some 1.8 million consultants will be at work in the United States—up 83 percent in a decade, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts. Even if just a small share of them work with nonprofits, that’s a lot of new consultants.
But the real question is whether those consultants will do a good job.
After all, the barrier for entry is quite low. You don’t need to do much to call yourself a consultant.
No universal standards govern our work. It is not a profession in the same sense as law and medicine because there is no formal body of knowledge to study, no board or bar exam to pass.
Of the many books available on consulting, few have been written specifically for those who work with nonprofits. Even consultants themselves, preoccupied with the concerns of their clients, rarely reflect upon…