Nonprofit consulting firms offer a different type of consulting for a different type of organization. Nonprofits must manage multiple bottom lines, and a budget surplus (profitability) is only one of them. So, nonprofit consulting firms have different metrics for success than traditional for-profit firms. They work with organizations whose goal isn’t a higher profit margin; it’s social change.
Working with this kind of client requires a different skillset. Nonprofit organizations often face issues centered around fundraising and donor retention. It requires a high level of grit and determination to work with stakeholders who aren’t necessarily business-minded, a willingness to challenge the sacred cows of the organization, and strong communication skills.
To address these needs, the top nonprofit consulting firms typically provide one or more of the following services:
- Fundraising strategy development
- Technology strategy/implementation
- Donor relations and retention
- Marketing strategy
- Support and redesign for internal functions (i.e. accounting or HR)
This list of the top nonprofit consulting firms is not specific to management consulting or strategy consulting firms, but any and all nonprofit consultancies.
Top 10 Nonprofit Consulting Firms
Niche: Management Consulting
Bridgespan is a well-renowned global consulting firm serving non-profits, NGOs, and philanthropists. Bridgespan is a pure-play strategy consulting firm – the only one on this list – providing what they term “social impact consulting.” The firm prides itself on helping clients re-engineer organizational strategy to drive greater impact. Under the umbrella of strategy, Bridgespan assists clients in fundraising strategy, growth/scaling, organizational effectiveness, and much more. The firm has been around for 20+ years, is a spin-off of Bain & Company, and shows no signs of slowing down as the world’s premier nonprofit consulting firm!
Aly Sterling is a full-service firm known for its ability to help clients overcome challenges. The firm has a strong reputation for helping larger organizations build and execute effective fundraising strategies. In addition, Aly Sterling focuses on helping organizations build long-term relationships and growth by facilitating solutions that steward donor relationships. Services include fundraising strategy and ongoing guidance, crisis response communications, strategic planning and leadership, and development.
Niche: Technology Implementation
This nonprofit consulting firm focuses primarily on helping nonprofits with technology. The firm is a leader in the field of nonprofit software consulting and has strong relationships with some of the leading players in nonprofit technology. DNL assists clients with both overall technology and identifying specific technology gaps and solutions. This is an ideal firm to consider if you want to help even the tech playing field between the private and nonprofit sectors. Overall, DNL offers a wide array of services including strategy creation, program implementation and support, website development, and marketing.
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Averill is another full-service nonprofit consulting firm well-known for working in the faith-based, education, and healthcare sectors. Averill offers the following services: campaign direction and planning, annual fund direction, embedded staffing, and executive search. Based in New York, with additional locations in Chicago and LA, Averill is a major player in the nonprofit consulting world, most notably because of the downstream support options it offers compared to a strategy house like Bridgespan.
Niche: Fundraising strategy
Byrne Pelofsky offers a specialized focus on building relationships between the often-disparate parts of a nonprofit organization: the board, executive leadership, the community, donors, and volunteers. The firm is also highly skilled at building planned giving programs from the ground up. It primarily supports nonprofits in the educational, senior living, faith-based and cultural sectors.
Niche: Fundraising strategy
Bristol is well known for helping mid-sized nonprofit organizations with board development, strategic planning, and fundraising consultation. Teams at Bristol are also highly skilled at identifying underlying weak points in fundraising strategy and developing solutions to address these issues. The firm offers campaign planning workshops, strategic planning, and development audits among other services, and employs a “Leaky Bucket Assessment” tool to develop targeted strategies for clients.
Niche: HR consulting
This nonprofit consulting firm offers the ideal opportunity for anyone wanting to focus on human resources. The firm has made HR its sole focus for the last 20 years and has the reputation to show for it. Programs are primarily designed for small to mid-size organizations looking to scale. Astron offers customized support in the following areas: compensation and performance management, employee retention, web-based talent, and hiring tools.
Niche: Donor relations
Donorly is one of the best options for mid-sized nonprofits interested in all aspects of the donor lifecycle – from research to prospecting to donor relations. The firm has a reputation as one of the most data-driven in the space and works to identify major donor possibilities for nonprofits. The firm focuses mainly on screening existing databases to generate fundraising insights. Managing all the different phases of donor research and strategy, Donorly works on donor prospect research, donor strategy, staff development, and long-range prospect strategies.
Niche: Major Gifts
Aspire specializes in researching and developing major donor gifts and campaigns. Prospect research, strengthening donor relationships, data analyzation, and fundraising strategies are a few of the ways Aspire facilitates major gift donations for its nonprofit clients.
Niche: Grant funding
As the name implies, Grants Plus offers grant consulting for nonprofits. The team develops grant strategies and winning proposals to private foundations and government funding programs. Since 2007, Grants Plus has helped its nonprofit partners garner more than $165M in new funding. The firm specializes in grant research, writing, and proposal reviews as well as short- and long-term management of the grant seeking program.
Working for a nonprofit consulting firm offers a unique opportunity to work with teams who have a passion for driving social change. As a consultant, you will have the chance to solve problems that are unique to these types of organizations, challenge preconceived notions, and navigate the tricky landscape of donor relations. All of these are excellent ways to build your skills and your resume. There are many excellent nonprofit consulting firms out there. Best of luck on your search process! Write to us if you have any application or resume questions regarding nonprofit firms.
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