March 12, 2012

Hard Economic Times Haven't Dampened the Appeal of Nonprofit Consulting

The allure of corporate consulting may be on the decline, thanks to changes in the business environment as well as scandals like the indictment of Rajat K. Gupta, a former managing partner for McKinsey & Company, on insider trading.

But consulting for nonprofits is taking a different turn: The number of graduates from top-level business schools entering the nonprofit sector has actually increased. Some  students, disillusioned with questionable ethics in the for-profit world and job instability in formerly secure havens like Wall Street, are beginning to work with nonprofits. Many business schools now offer students opportunities to be involved in nonprofit consulting. Last year a new national organization was formed, Students Consulting for Nonprofit Organizations, whose members include respected business schools like Northwestern and Penn State.

Seasoned management consultants are also crossing over to work with nonprofits. According to Management Consulted, 10 percent of those who leave business consulting end up advising nonprofits. This is due in part to more options being available today in the nonprofit world than in the past, as I described in a previous blog, "Big Consultants Increasingly Turn to Nonprofits." Among them are nonprofit consulting firms closely associated with for-profit firms, like Bridgespan's affiliation with Bain & Company.

It's not just students and former management consultants joining the ranks. The economic downturn compelled some who lost their jobs in the recession to seek work as consultants. Recent retirees and those who had hoped to retire soon but suffered recessionary losses have done the same.

This suggests that consulting for nonprofits is very much alive.

Do you think that what has happened in the corporate world will tarnish the image of consulting for nonprofits?  As job prospects elsewhere brighten for graduates, will  nonprofit consulting lose its appeal? Do you worry that there is or will be a glut of consultants?