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MSI Qualified Consultants

Forefront’s Mission Sustainability Initiative has compiled a list of qualified consultants below 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 University of Illinois in Cultural Diversity and is committed to being an advocate and ally in the work towards equity.

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.

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 its third decade as a trusted advisor to businesses, nonprofits, civic groups and coalitions, Conlon Public Strategies helps clients build complex partnerships, develop their programs and strategies, use effective engagement tools, and create high-quality external relations plans. Conlon has helped over 200 client organizations generate broad support, aligning client interests with those of the public, decision-makers, and funders. As client organizations seek new opportunities, including new strategic partnerships, Conlon works with boards and staff at multiple levels to facilitate all aspects of the process.

Conlon seeks to fight complacency, and they are committed to working toward a better version of communities and democracy. In these turbulent weeks and months, they are listening to client requests for guidance as they develop contingency plans and adapt their organizations and services to new conditions. As a values-based firm, they are committed to doing all that they can to assist clients with timely information, strategies, and connections to resources to advance their important work.

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.

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. We are committed to a nondiscriminatory approach and provide equal opportunity for employment and advancement in all of our departments, programs, and worksites. We respect and value diverse life experiences and heritages and ensure that all voices are valued and heard.

Mission + Strategy Consulting (“M+S”) was founded by Jean Butzen, President. In 2006, Jean was President of Lakefront Supportive Housing during a merger and learned that mergers and other forms of strategic restructuring could help nonprofit agencies expand their impact. She founded M+S Consulting to help nonprofit organizations become stronger through mergers, partnerships, and other forms of restructuring. They can help a single nonprofit go from “Me,” to “You and Me,” to “We,” through their unique consulting services. Please see their website to read their DEI statement and for further clarification of their services.

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.

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 all forms of oppression.  We apply this commitment to all client partner engagements.  We pay particular attention to the inclusion of the voices and workstyles of multi-generational and diverse teams as we 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. We design and implement marketing strategies that help nonprofits achieve their goals, advance their missions, and drive more social change.

Please see https://prosper-strategies.com/equity-diversity-inclusion/ for 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.

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. With skill, sensitivity, and good humor, Amy helps diverse organizations enhance their management, leadership, and adaptive capacities to be more effective.

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