Striking when the iron is hot

Written by Banu Raghuraman

Knowing how and when to engage in pro bono consulting is an important question facing non-profits and charitable organizations, and there are plenty of tools available to aid in the decision. We caught up with a few leaders at Endeavour to uncover patterns of when our clients decide to engage with Endeavour and what type of help they seek. Here are some excerpts.

Our panel:

Hadi Alaghehband
Co Director of Client Relations

Jonathan Krieger
Director of Project Management

Are there common consulting/assessment types of Endeavour projects? For example, Marketing Strategy, Corporate Strategy, etc.

Hadi: Yes, some types come up more often than others. There are a lot of projects dealing with marketing strategy such as branding and messaging, as well as projects on strategic planning, feasibility studies, and organizational strategy.

Typically we are engaged to do one thing, but the focus changes as the project is finalized. It changes because the non-profit may not have prioritized their issues or have not yet identified the underlying problem. As well, Endeavour may feel that the project should focus on a different issue, depending on what they notice as a root cause.

Jonathan: Lately, the most common types of projects we see are strategic plan development and the development of a marketing/re-branding strategy. We also see organizations that require the development of an operations strategy and sometimes an organizational or governance strategy is required. Occasionally we see non-profits asking us to do some type of feasibility study.

Do you find that certain charities comes up with similar types of projects? For example, strategy-related projects are more common for hunger related charities etc.

Jonathan: In my time at Endeavour, I haven’t really seen a trend with respect to types of project and landscape under which the organization operates. However, lately, engagements have included more strategic plans and marketing/rebranding strategies as opposed to any other types of projects. Perhaps there is a trend between groups operating in the community services sector and needs for operational strategy, but this is simply a light qualitative observation by looking at past projects, and is in no way statistically correlated.

What types of charities approach Endeavour?

Hadi: All different types of charities approach Endeavour, but the focus is on health, youth related, arts and culture, and education.

Are there any other statistics that you can share with regards to consulting/assessment types?

Hadi: From the Client Surveys that have been completed recently by Endeavour showing Impact and Satisfaction, we have the following results to share: 82% of clients state that project recommendations exceeded their expectation; 75% of clients are planning to implement most recommendations; 20% of clients will be implementing all recommendations; and100% of clients would recommend Endeavour to another non-profit.

What would you say is the driving force behind influencing these project types?

Jonathan: Endeavour advertises on our website that we offer consulting in four areas – corporate strategy, marketing strategy, operations strategy, and organizational strategy. Thus non-profit organizations potentially interested in our services tend to ask for assistance in one of these areas. From time to time, project types will change once a consulting team meets with the client and discusses the problems that they are tasked with addressing in the engagement.

When would you say is a good time for a charity to contact Endeavour, when it feels it is challenged with an issue or when a charity is newly established?

Hadi: Different people might have different opinions on this, as there is no single recipe that fits all. Non-profits who are asking for consulting advice should have been in operation long enough to know what they want to do and what their social impact is. In fact, we have a requirement in our application that requires the non-profit to have been established for a minimum of two years. We want the organizations we work with to be sustainable and stable. If not, they may not able to implement our suggestions and recommendations. They should have a vision and mission, and be stable enough to support the consulting team. Once this is in place, there isn’t a right or wrong time – they can come ‘early’ or ‘later’.

Most of these charities are light on resources and are not necessarily always clear on what they want when they come to Endeavour. We go through client selection and identification to make sure they will benefit from our help. By selecting the most suitable clients, the projects will go smoothly, ensuring our recommendations can be implemented resulting in positive impact.

Jonathan: Anytime! A potential client shouldn’t necessarily wait until a big problem has developed that they need to really focus on fixing it. Ideally, organizations do internal reviews and recognize issues before they become problems. For example; is the vision clear, is the mission still relevant, are the strategic goals of the organization clearly defined, and are they in line with the mission and vision? It will be easier for any organization, especially smaller non-profits with limited resources, to correct any minor issues before they turn into major ones.

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