Fifteen years ago, I started Social Impact Architects with one disruptive goal: to reimagine nonprofit consulting. As every social entrepreneur does, I started with the problem. Based on my experience and research, I identified key issues in the nonprofit-consultant relationship:

  • Nonprofits often felt that consultants provided cookie-cutter approaches without the ability or aptitude to customize them.
  • Nonprofits often felt consultants were too expensive and spent money on unnecessary items (e.g., fancy offices) that did not provide value or made quality consulting out-of-reach.
  • Nonprofits often felt that consultants, especially those who came from the for-profit space, did not have enough nonprofit experience to assist them.
  • Nonprofits often complained about the power imbalance between them and consultants where nonprofit leaders were underestimated because they worked for a nonprofit.


While these problems still exist, we are making headway to greater understanding and appreciation of the nonprofit sector. In many communities, the nonprofit sector represents 10% of the workforce. It deserves dedicated professionals and consultants who work alongside them as true experts in the nonprofit business model, which is categorically different from the for-profit model.

We started Social Impact Architects during the Great Recession and alongside our clients have weathered many events – COVID, economic upturns and downturns, and political changes. I thought I’d share some of my lessons learned as a social entrepreneur, small business owner and fellow social sector warrior that have become integral to our work for 15 years: 

1 – Radical Accountability Is a Gamechanger.

How often do our words and actions align? How often do we set targets or goals only to have them disrupted by “real life”? For me, I knew from day one of Social Impact Architects that it needed to be incorporated as a Benefit Corporation, a mission-driven company that balances purpose and profit – not only to practice what I preach, but also to hold myself accountable to larger societal goals. In addition, we went the extra mile and became B Corp Certified, which means we have a third party – B Lab – look at our practices and grade our efforts. In addition to 2024 marking our 15th anniversary as a company, it is also our 10th anniversary as a Certified Benefit Corporation. We were honored to be recognized as “Best For The World” by B Lab for many years until it discontinued the award.

One of the most important parts of this work has been to make nonprofit consulting accessible to all nonprofits. To do this, we use sliding-scale pricing, break even each year and provide pro-bono/low-bono consulting to start-up nonprofits and large-scale community projects. We also want all of our frameworks and teachings to be open-source so people can use them freely, adapt and improve them.

In addition, we develop an impact report and regularly upgrade our work. For example, in 2020, we established an Equity Statement and worked with many clients to embed similar goals into their strategic plans. We also practice many environmental practices and urge our readers to do the same.

2 – Change Is Easy to Say and Hard to Do. Managing Change Is Key to Transformation.

Why do we resist change? What helps us change more easily? I will be honest – traditional consulting is easier than true partnership. You can give advice, develop a plan and then walk away, hoping for the best. But that was never my end goal. I want that plan to be implemented and change to happen. I want that training or lecture to be used the next day. I want that coaching session to lead to a-ha moments that change ways of working. Impact is not only the bottom line of the social sector, but it is also our bottom line. I admit in the first few years we created strategic and business plans that were not implemented well. However, we have monitored our efforts closely, talked candidly with clients and consistently evolved our practices based on our learnings. We now embed change management practices in every aspect of what we do (even our blog) to ensure that change is right-sized for the client, capacity is built before we leave, and no-charge follow-ups are available to support anything that didn’t work the first time. Research shows us that managed change leads to positive outcomes, and positive transformative change for our clients is the only outcome we are interested in.

3 – Goals First. Plan Next. Execution Is King. Impact Is the Bottom Line.

How many of us race through life and get caught in our busyness? Do we ever hit our goals or are we constantly on a proverbial hamster wheel? I have written a lot about these topics – really as therapy for myself, but they have become our top blogs. I often joke with clients that I’m a part-time mechanic and part-time therapist. Most of what gets in our way isn’t the plan, but all the other things that create barriers (e.g., how we prioritize, what we do when things get hard or uncomfortable). And it is harder than ever to navigate your strategy with so many shifts in the social and political landscape. This is why I help clients differentiate between having a plan and being intentional. Here is my current formula for intentionality, personally and professionally:

  1. Set regular and sacred checkpoints (e.g., time blocks, sabbaticals) to honestly assess where you are, what went well and what got in your way.
  2. Surround yourself with an accountability circle of friends and colleagues who will be real with you – everyone’s opinion matters, but not all opinions are equal. Choose whom you seek for advice and counsel carefully.
  3. Don’t get distracted by everyday things (e.g., emails, meetings) – the real work needs focused attention when you are at your best.
  4. Measure and adjust constantly – feedback is a gift. Don’t take anything personally.
  5. Always, always remember why we do this work – it is about impact. You can either prove that you are moving toward it or you are getting in the way of it. Be the former and not the latter.


We would not have these anniversaries without all of you. I never wanted this firm named after me, because it was about all of us being “social impact architects.” I named it after being inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s quote – “We are all called to be architects of the future, not its victims.” In our next chapter, we are laser-focused on a new goal: shifting from being a force for good to being a force multiplier by equipping everyone to be their own “social impact architect.” Yes, we are giving it all away – but isn’t that the point? Here’s to the next 15 years – thanks to everyone who helped us get here, believed in our purpose and challenged us to be the best version of ourselves so we can make our communities better. We’d love to hear about how we have influenced your work over the years, whether it’s been as a Social TrendSpotter or as a client.


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