All posts by Penelope Cagney


Nonprofit Consulting Goes Global

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…


Where to Find a Consultant: In Your Community or Elsewhere?

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 communit…


How Nonprofit Consulting Differs Outside the United States

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 t…


Who We Are Today and Where We Came From

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 n…


Hard Economic Times Haven’t Dampened the Appeal of Nonprofit Consulting

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…


How Do Consultants Find Fresh Ideas?

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…


Big Consultants Increasingly Turn to Nonprofit Clients

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 p…


Foundation Seeks to Help Consultants Help Nonprofits

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 wor…


New Organizations Pose Challenges for Nonprofit Consultants

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 orie…


The Need for Good Advice

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 standa…