Consultants are people too!

Fall issues in the changing of leaves, the smell of PSLs permeate the Starbucks air, and so too the nonprofit conference season begins.

I embark on the journey through a long, seemingly endless corridor of ED’s, development directors, and program people to make my way to my first session of the day. Doing my best to dodge conversation with vendors on my third lap around while nabbing a pen, I finally make it my allotted room.

I sit down and we quickly launch into introductions. A room full of smiles state their names, titles, and organizations with a brief description. My turn comes: Hi, I’m Kate! I’m a Digital Strategy Director at DSA. We are a nonprofit consulting firm, we can take care of pretty much any nonprofit need.” Polite nods are accompanied by a slight twitch of the upper lip. Could it be my imagination?

Consultants. It’s a word that even we struggle with because personally, I don’t feel it accurately describes how ingrained we are in the nonprofit world. Being a for-profit fish in a nonprofit pond can often make me feel like an outsider in the nonprofit world. What I’d like those lip-twitchers to understand is that we are humans too; we have worked for/volunteered for/donated to nonprofits before becoming consultants, and we care immensely about a wide range of issues.

Working to support two, three or six organizations at once doesn’t mean I care less about any of their individual missions. Caring about animal welfare, for example, in no way means I am less passionate about reproductive rights. I actually LIKE my job as a consultant, because it allows me to work on and positively impact many different issues as opposed to narrowing it down to one.  

Too often, we have seen negative reactions to the idea of working with a consultant as opposed to hiring a full-time, on-site staff. I get it, I really do. You want someone whom you can meet with face-to-face every day, someone to discuss weather with over the modern-day water bubbler, the Keurig.

The reality of the situation, however, is that you get what you pay for with full-time staff and often nonprofits don’t have the money to shell out for highly qualified candidates. A “shallow pool” of senior staff is another struggle that organizations face now and can expect to continue in the future.

This is the niche we fill as consultants. We have a stockpile of expertise that most often costs a lot less than a full-time highly skilled candidate. An added bonus is expertise with fewer strings attached; no additional cost for benefits, no long-term commitment. Let’s be honest; how many interoffice emails do you send? Like your in-house staff, we too are just a phone call or an email away.

The point I am trying to make is that consultants, although you may not hear the clack of our keyboard or smell our steeping rooibos tea, are individual people who care about your causes and want to be an integral part of your team. I consider myself a staff member of whatever organizations I am working to support, I care deeply about each issue we address and I often talk to or meet the individuals whose lives we affect.  

If you cast aside the stigma of consultants as “for-profit” people who are intruding upon the nonprofit world, you’ll realize that your issues are (literally) our issues. Our goal at DSA is to use best practices to tackle challenges common to nonprofits working across a variety of issues. We want to be a part of your team that helps you, and allows you to serve more people, because we think what you do is important.

If you’d like to meet the real people behind the curtain (that’s me!) and discover how we fit into your organizational picture, feel free to email us at

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