We sat down with Alison M., a non profit Expert Advisor, to learn about her approach to new clients, pick up some advice for non profit leaders, and chat about why she enjoys consulting for non profits. Alison M. has over 15 years of experience bringing her creative and innovative vision to non profit management, strategic planning, arts and culture, and community engagement. She has overseen over $8 million in successful capital and donor campaigns, built non profit boards from the ground up, and has worked on major branded content campaigns around the country.
When you meet with a new client, what do you start by asking?
What are they working on. What stage are they at. And What are they hoping to address.
For example, when working with non profits that are trying to grow it start with figuring out how they are trying to grow, how they see themselves in the space, and how they stand out – then we discuss how I can support them.
What are you seeing in the non profit sector these days?
I mainly work in the non-direct service sector and breaking through the noise of direct service non profits is difficult because those are typically seen as higher priorities. So with what I do, so much of it is finding that perfect position so you can earn the grant and support. With more focus on DEI as a funding piece and sponsors having more say about what their money goes towards, asks have to be so clear about their initiatives and how what exactly the money will go to – there’s far less opportunity for generality.
What are some things of note for non profit leaders?
Non profits see a lot of staff burnout because there is always so much work to be done. It’s important to make sure every minute spent is the best use of the company’s money and the staff’s time, that efficiencies are noted, and that the limited amount of money and time is always allocated in the most impactful way.
Related to time and money limitations, non profits also need to be careful about saying YES. So often they want to say YES because they want to grow and provide more help, but the first thing they need to do is look internally and figure out if they would actually be able to support the new project. Asking questions like, who’s going to pay for the project, what is the intended outcome of the new engagement, and does it truly align with our mission is where the decision to say yes or no need to come from.
What drew you towards working with non profits?
Helping people figure out how to do great things is what I love. Helping them figure out how to build a great organization, build a board, create a message that attracts people, or make sure the company is reaching the people they want to serve are all such involved challenges and it really takes so much work and creativity to run a non profit so I like to be there and help them get there.