Consultants have long played a critical role in the work of nonprofits and foundations, helping to facilitate strategy, guide leaders, and serve as outsourced staff. In the future, consultants will continue to play these important roles – likely their importance may only grow in the coming years, as organizations plan their way out of the pandemic.

However, beyond the pandemic, the movement for racial equity – catalyzed by the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in early summer 2020 – has also led to broad change in the nonprofit sector. Prominent funders have announced that they will prioritize racial equity and social justice in their grantmaking, and many nonprofits have conducted internal reviews with similar goals. Both the murder of Black Americans by police and the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on low-income communities and communities of color have served as stark reminders of the structural racism and inequality that shapes life in the United States.

In this context, consultants, too, have pledged to prioritize equity and combat inequality in their work, and many have embarked on their own initiatives to examine and reform their firms. After years of research on strategy consultants to nonprofits, combined with experience in community-based nonprofit work, I’m able to offer some insight to inform these efforts. I argue that the current practices of consultants in regard to nonprofits can perpetuate existing hierarchies – and that we must both critically reflect on our work and radically re-envision nonprofit strategy if we want to deploy the tools of consulting toward social change. My aim is to help consultants – and nonprofits – best meet the challenges of the day, to make real progress toward dismantling systems of inequality in the sector and the nation as a whole.

Read the full article about consultants by Leah Reisman at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.