Monthly Archives: August 2011
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 18, 2011, 2:27 pm
Much of my 32-year career working for nonprofits has been as a consultant who helps organizations make better use of technology.
As I look for ways to improve my practice, I get feedback from clients and (try) to keep up on a never-ending stream of technology information. But instruction on how to design workshops or consulting engagements, the cornerstone of my practice, is not quite as plentiful. Even more difficult to find are studies about what nonprofits are looking for in a consultant relationship. That type of information is pure gold.
And that is exactly what will soon be available from a study underwritten by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. I learned about the preliminary results at the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s conference, Better Philanthropy: From Data to Impact, where I attended a discussion with Kathy Reich, a program officer at the Packard…
August 9, 2011, 5:05 pm
As CEO of CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, which provides management advice to charities, I spend a large portion of every day thinking, in one form or another, about strategy.
Over the past three years, my thinking, like that of many of my colleagues, has changed radically.
First, strategy now seems to be as much about good decision making as good planning. Rather than thinking of myself as the expert architect of a process that will eventually yield strategy, I now work with executives to make good decisions in real time.
In arriving at those decisions, we draw on some of the tools in a typical strategic-planning process, but a decision-making orientation changes the consulting arrangement—for the better.
Second, formulating strategy is an explicitly financial exercise. Understanding the economics of any potential decision is critical. It doesn’t make sense to develop 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…