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Firm launches program to help not-for-profits fill gaps in know-how

March 31, 2017

Indianapolis-based Charitable Advisors has launched a program aimed at helping small and mid-sized organizations with consulting needs.

Bryan Orander, president of Charitable Advisors, said the group consulting program is designed to fill a void for not-for-profits that can’t afford one-on-one consulting on issues vital to their operations and don’t receive enough ongoing support from webinars.

"There's a zillion webinars. It's not a situation where there aren't enough training resources,” Orander said. "But the training isn't carried into application.”

The program offered by Charitable Advisors, a local for-profit company founded in 2000 that supports not-for-profit staffs and boards, will start with eight groups each with four to eight participants. Each group will focus on a different topic, including donor engagement, hiring and retaining a development director, evaluating impact, stakeholder communication and building a framework for grant research and proposals.

A not-for-profit expert will work with participants over the course of three meetings, each about two-and-a-half hours long. Between sessions, “homework” will be assigned, and by the end of the program participants will complete some type of project. The groups are expected to start meeting in April.

The experts leading the sessions also will check in with individual participants between meetings.

The program is targeting not-for-profits with budgets below $2 million to $3 million or in a position where fundraising is only providing a few hundred thousand dollars per year.

“They’re in that place where they’re trying to establish and grow their development effort,” Orander said.

The prices for the groups range from $595 to $695.

“Most people say that's a bargain,” Orander said. “If people really understand what they’re going to get, it’s a bargain.”

Bill Stanczykiewicz, director of The Fund Raising School at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, said the school has seen an increase in the number of organizations interested in its class for small not-for-profits within the past few years, which makes him believe there is a niche for this type of program.

“Charitable Advisors is obviously a very well respected organization,” Stanczykiewicz said. “If Bryan has noticed a need—it’s real and its tangible.”

Stanczykiewicz said charitable giving and household wealth are at all-times highs, so, if not-for-profits have the right training, fundraising could be quite successful.

“The possibilities are there,” Stanczykiewicz said. “I don’t mean to make it sound easy. Fundraising is work, … but the possibilities are there.”

Angela White, senior consultant and CEO of Greenwood-based Johnson Grossnickle and Associates, which offers philanthropic consulting, said a similar program offering training for smaller not-for-profits in Cincinnati has been successful.

“Since the model in Cincinnati has worked—I’m assuming, I don’t have data on that—but I think that it will be an important niche,” White said.

She said webinars can be helpful to spread information, but acknowledged that “you don’t get the interaction, you don’t learn from your peers as much.”

“Anything we can do to strengthen those smaller nonprofits ... is clearly something we support,” White said.

The Charitable Advisors sessions are expected to be complete by early June, but the schedule will depend on the participants.

Orander said that, if successful, Charitable Advisors would consider launching a summer program.

“We kind of started from the standpoint of, 'How do we bring consulting to these small and midsize nonprofits?'” Orander said. “This is a step in that direction. … We’re anxious to see how people respond.”

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