Blurb about why Forefront rocks, caption for photo

MSI Qualified Consultants

To help organizations find the right support as they explore collaboration, the Mission Sustainability Initiative (MSI) at Forefront has compiled a list of qualified consultants with expertise in various areas related to strategic partnerships. We’ve reviewed the skills and experiences and checked references for the consultants on this list.

If you are looking for a consultant, the best practice is for an organization to reach out to multiple consultants to discuss a potential scope of work and budget. In addition, an organization should personally check the potential consultant’s references and ask for references for whom the consultant has performed work on a strategic partnership project.

If you are applying for an MSI grant, you are not required to select a consultant on this list.

Advisors to nonprofits are invited to submit a response to our request for qualifications (RFQ). This RFQ will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis. Click here to view the questions or click here to submit the RFQ.

Looking for consultants in other areas or a more expansive list? See Forefront’s Directory of Advisor Members.

Aleen Bayard is the principal of a business strategy and organizational development consulting practice hired by clients to design and manage complex organizational change and leadership development initiatives. Filling a need in the high-value-added consulting market, Aleen partners with clients seeking senior counsel for projects in the cases when internal resources did not have the capacity or expertise needed.

Principal Aleen Bayard holds a certification from the University of Illinois in Cultural Diversity and is committed to being an advocate and ally in the work towards equity. Aleen Bayard is the principal of a business strategy and organizational development consulting practice hired by clients to design and manage complex organizational change and leadership development initiatives. Filling a need in the high-value-added consulting market, Aleen partners with clients seeking senior counsel for projects in cases when internal resources did not have the capacity or expertise needed.

AltruNext helps their clients fund programs and explore partnerships requiring vision and team buy-in to create a lasting impact. Within the complexities of the client’s day-to-day operations, AltruNext will quickly develop risk assessments, coordinate process improvements, and optimize available resources. From conception to operation, AltruNext works with their clients on any phase of a program or partnership, including organizational assessments, strategic plans, program evaluation, and change management and process improvement. They are committed to creating a collaborative work environment where all employees, contractors, and clients—whatever their gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, age, sexual orientation or identity, education, or ability—feels valued and respected.

Appreciative Solutions Group uses an appreciative inquiry-based approach to gather essential data directly from the knowledge and imaginations of the individuals who make up the human systems of the organizations we serve. From this data, they create materials, tools, protocols, plans, structures, visions — whatever is needed to move those systems into a state where strengths are aligned in such a way as to make weaknesses irrelevant. In the case of strategic partnerships, typical projects focus on assessment and integration of organizational cultures, as well as assessing and merging program structures, fundraising efforts, and communication strategies.

The mission of BLVE is to create stronger organizations by building effective systems and processes and encouraging transformational leadership. BLVE connects clients back to the mission and values of their work by building the structure necessary to make space for creativity, ideas, and innovation. Operating from Toronto and Chicago, BLVE has clients across the US and Canada.  Client nonprofit work has ranged from social justice, healthcare and arts and culture.

BLVE is dedicated to creating an inclusive space for all their employees and extending this culture of inclusion into their work. They embrace difference and diversity of identity, experience, and thought, and actively strive for inclusive behaviors across their company and work.

CBWhite’s special expertise is rooted in marketing research, providing clients with data and information to make objective decisions. Projects involve assessing the situation, determining what external information will lead to making informed choices, implementing efficient and objective research such as focus groups and surveys, and analyzing and synthesizing the information. CBWhite’s work reveals critical information about all types of constituents – users of services, community partners, staff, donors, volunteers – and provides the foundation for effective marketing plans, branding, organization descriptions, program/service options, pricing, and communications. The firm works with clients to integrate marketing research findings into decision-making processes.

Now in our third decade as a trusted advisor to nonprofits, Conlon Public Strategies helps clients build complex partnerships, develop their programs and strategies, use effective engagement tools, and create high-quality external relations plans. As client organizations seek new opportunities, including new strategic partnerships, we work with board and senior staff members to facilitate all aspects of the process. We are a values-based firm, committed to doing all we can to assist clients with timely information, strategies, and connections to resources to advance their important work.

In 2022, our non-profit clients included the following health care, community service, higher education, civic, and arts organizations: Aunt Martha’s Health and Wellness, Catholic Charities of Chicago, Centers for New Horizons, Chestnut Health Systems, City of Evanston, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, Erie Family Health Centers, Greater Chicago Food Depository, Haymarket Center, Illinois State University—Mennonite College of Nursing, Margaret’s Village, Center for Human Services (McLean County), Metropolitan Family Services, National Louis University, Northwestern University Settlement House, UCAN, University of Illinois at Chicago—Office of Engagement and Neighborhood Health Partnerships, OSF St. Joseph Medical Center, scaleLit, TASC, and Warehouse Community Arts Center.

Impact Solutions, Inc. leads, creates and implements strategic initiatives within social sector organizations.  Their work is best described as capacity-building and aims to strengthen the infrastructure and outcomes of community-based agencies. You can expect a collaborative approach to their work while they serve as an extended member of your strategic team. Services include interim CEO assignments, board/governance advisement, restructuring support, program assessment, development of strategic or operational plans, and project management of high-level initiatives.

Misra’s values as an individual, and more specifically as a professionally trained social worker, are tuned into dynamics of systemic injustice and marginalization of individuals, groups and communities. She believes that all organizations should take account of EDI practices–both implicit and explicit– to more intentionally allocate resources and opportunities in a way that corrects unjust practices.

K.O. Strategies works with nonprofit organizations to manage challenging issues, communicate with target audiences, plan for the future of their organization, raise client profiles, advocate on critical goals, and strengthen relationships with key stakeholders. They serve as thought partner to help clients tackle issues and pursue opportunities. Their services include: Strategic Planning and Facilitation; Strategic Communications; Stakeholder Relations; and Advocacy. Their facilitation of strategic planning sessions and strategy meetings is dynamic and tailored. They use best practices to help clients make the most of precious meeting time and create a solid path to move forward. They draw out participants’ ideas and creativity, leading to highly innovative and effective solutions and plans.

La Piana Consulting was founded in 1998, with start-up funding from three major foundations to create a powerful new resource for collaboration and strategic restructuring in the nonprofit sector. Their consulting team is comprised of senior-level consultants who bring wisdom of experience to every engagement. The firm’s primary areas for consulting include: Strategic Restructuring (Mergers and Partnership), Strategic Planning, and Business Planning. They have extensive experience guiding hundreds of nonprofit organizations through the processes of assessment, negotiations, implementation, and integration of all levels of partnership development (including mergers, parent-subsidiaries, administrative consolidation, joint programming, etc.).

At La Piana, they bring an awareness of the impact of systemic racism in the country’s history and the present moment to all the work that they do, centering racial justice in their practice. Race and racism do not exist in a vacuum, however, with sexism, homophobia, ableism, and other societal ills all interacting with racism. Applying a racial equity frame to their work also informs their efforts to counter these other forms of discrimination.

Lavender Eucalyptus, LLC provides strategic business operations support, program and project management, process optimization, and workflow automation services to community-based nonprofits. Their high-quality, comprehensive solutions help organizations efficiently reallocate resources so their program teams can more effectively serve their clients.

Mission + Strategy Consulting (Powered by Keystone Alliance) was founded in 2006 by Jean Butzen to help nonprofit organizations become stronger through strategic collaboration. Since then, M+S has completed more than 70 mergers and partnership transactions throughout the country using their signature process of “me, You+Me, to We.” With the support of the Polk Bros Foundation, The Chicago Foundation for Women, and Northwestern Kellogg School of Management, Mission + Strategy commissioned the “Mergers as a Strategy for Success” report. In December 2022, Mission + Strategy joined forces with Keystone Alliance to offer a continuum of consultative services strengthening our trademark collaboration services even more and demonstrating that we can lead by example. For more information about their services and to read their DEI statement, please visit their website.

Morten Group provides clients with access to unique skill sets from their diverse team of consultants who provide expertise in strategic partnerships, DEI work, cultural integration, strategic planning, board and resource development, and talent searches. They customize their work for their clients to help solve complex organizational challenges and provide expertise and lots of hard work all while having some fun in the process.

Valerie F. Leonard is an expert in community and organizational development and the Founder of Nonprofit Utopia, LLC. She helps clients solve some of their most pressing problems through consulting, coaching, and community.  Valerie teaches nonprofit management courses for the UIC Certificate in Nonprofit Management Program and social ventures for Roosevelt University.  Valerie has helped over 700 nonprofit leaders meet their goals and raise over $100 million through grant writing and technical assistance.

Nonprofit Utopia, LLC is a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace in which all employees and volunteers, whatever their gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, age, sexual orientation or identity, education or disability, feel valued and respected. They are committed to a nondiscriminatory approach and provide equal opportunity for employment and advancement in all of our departments, programs, and worksites. They respect and value diverse life experiences and heritages and ensure that all voices are valued and heard.

Established in 2009, Open Door Advisors is a woman-owned consulting firm that supports leaders and organizations seeking new levels of growth, impact, and change. Open Door Advisors offers trusted consulting to guide strategy and planning, organizational sustainability, talent development, and new ventures. The practice’s clients include nonprofit organizations, associations, companies, foundations, and government agencies, and team members have extensive experience working with social impact and social enterprise organizations in the health, human services, housing, human rights, environment and workforce development fields. Open Door Advisors has partnered with more than 75 social impact organizations since 2009, including 31 in 2019, and maintains longstanding relationships with its client partners who return to the firm for their advisory services and leadership coaching needs.

Open Door Advisors works in partnership with clients to critically and honestly assess our role in contributing to and countering racism and all forms of oppression. They apply this commitment to all client partner engagements. They pay particular attention to the inclusion of the voices and workstyles of multi-generational and diverse teams as they work with organizations on developing and refining strategy and core values.

​Since 1987, Primer Michaels accelerates leadership’s ability to steward their vision for success in ways that transform:

•       Culture, characterized by engagement and continuous improvement
•       Leadership, impact realized from core values and meaningful outcomes
•       Relationships, grounded in trust

Organizational Culture: Primer Michaels equips leaders with data-driven, practical recommendations for improving vibrancy and resiliency. In cases of potential mergers, leaders see how their core values align with those of another organization.

Strategic Planning: 85% of plans fail to be implemented. Primer Michael’s clients consistently beat these odds.

Leadership and Board Work: Primer Michaels helps senior teams realize their potential.

Prosper Strategies is a leading marketing and communications consultancy for the nonprofit sector. They design and implement marketing strategies that help nonprofits achieve their goals, advance their missions, and drive more social change.

Please see for their equity, diversity, and inclusion commitment statement.

Shilpi Shah oversees SKS Consulting, which provides a variety of nonprofit and philanthropic consulting services. Shilpi has over 15 years of experience working in the nonprofit/public sector, consulting to organizations globally. SKS is currently managing an acquisition/merger for one of its clients. Other services include:

TCC Group (TCC) has a distinguished 35-year history of helping nonprofit organizations manage change, plan for the future, and increase sustainability. They provide strategic assistance to a vast set of nonprofits, locally, nationally, and globally. They offer deep expertise in organizational development, strategic, merger and business planning, and restructuring. They help their clients focus efforts and identify “What is Core” to their missions. They have facilitated a number of strategic partnerships and understand the complexities nonprofits face as they seek to serve multiple stakeholder groups. They have helped numerous organizations manage complex change processes as they address pressing issues of relevance and sustainability.

thredpartners works with nonprofit leaders to break the inertia and create an environment that allows them to reach their true potential and impact. They position you and your organization to change, grow, and innovate; ultimately strengthening the lives of the people and communities you serve. They know you dream BIG, and it can be hard to hold onto that dream in the midst of the day-to-day. They want to help you take that dream and make it a reality. Together, you and they will think critically about where you are today, think strategically about where you need to go, and identify what you need to do to get there. They will be your partner all along the way as your dream turns into an idea that turns into reality.

Kris began consulting full-time in 2007 after 27 years of development, administrative, HR, and operations experience in social justice nonprofits. Her practice focuses on the “people part” of strategic partnership and mergers: organizational and HR gap analysis and assessments, managing change, transition and succession planning, and HR integration. Kris provides a wide range of HR and operations services and is committed to developing the leadership and managerial skills of the next leaders in the nonprofit sector.

W4Sight provides fundraising, program management and other software consulting services to the nonprofit, foundation, and education communities. W4Sight is an independent firm that does not accept any fees from software companies to recommend their products.

W4Sight provides three categories of services:

  1. They help their clients plan software “ecosystems”, so that the various databases they use across their organization work together efficiently.
  2. They lead software selection and implementation services to help clients move toward their ecosystem vision in reasonable phases.
  3. They provide ongoing coaching and support to help clients build the internal skills and capacity to manage their systems long-term.

Wade Strategic Solutions is the consulting practice of Andy Wade, a versatile nonprofit practitioner with over 20 years of experience in strategic planning, organizational design, employee/board communications, leadership development, and change management. Andy has consulted since 2006, and held several leadership roles, most recently as VP of Strategy & Communications at Metropolitan Family Services. Andy has been in the trenches, leading complex change initiatives under difficult circumstances. Whether you hire him as a solo consultant or have him assemble and lead a team, you can count on high-quality, affordable services that get the job done and allow you to focus on your mission.

Amy Wishnick embraces your mission, values, and goals. As a trusted advisor, she works with nonprofit organizations – emerging or mature, small, mid-size, or large. One of her greatest strengths is her ability to see issues through the eyes of diverse stakeholders: executive leaders, staff, board members, and constituents. Because she works with human services, community development, arts, and education organizations, Amy is able to take what she learns in one sector and apply it to others. As Wishnick & Associates’ clients embrace equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging, so does Amy. Ever mindful of bias and structural racism, she is authentic and open with clients and in all engagements. With skill, sensitivity, and good humor, Amy helps diverse organizations enhance their management, leadership, and adaptive capacities to be more effective.


Newsletter Sign Up

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.