Over the past 20 years, LeaderSpring (first as Eureka Bay Area then in 2005 as LeaderSpring, a project of the Tides Center) has strengthened over 250 nonprofit executives and agencies through its intensive, two-year LeaderSpring Fellowship. This competitively awarded, on-the-job program integrates leadership development, management skills training, executive coaching, mentoring, peer learning, and networking. The Fellowship program serves its mission of fostering a powerful, equity-driven social sector. In January 2019, LeaderSpring expanded its Fellowship by launching its Women of Color LeadStrong Fellowship, including 18 diverse women from the social sector.
In 2010, in response to requests from the field, LeaderSpring launched its consulting group to share its expertise more widely and to generate revenue to support its flagship Fellowship for social sector leaders. LeaderSpring’s consulting practice advances the missions of philanthropic foundations, public agencies, private business with equity and community responsibility commitments, and the social sector by strengthening individual and organizational leadership, building organizational capacity for racial and cultural equity and inclusion, and creating networks of leaders primed for collaboration and mutual support.
LeaderSpring’s 2019 budget is significantly less than 2018 due to a contract ending in 2018 and a $130k reduction in the final two years of a 10-year contract. LeaderSpring is looking to its consulting services to generate substantial revenue to make up the difference while serving its mission, especially with respect to its commitment to transform the systems in which leaders work. Over the last eight years, LeaderSpring’s consulting services have expanded in terms of number and types of clients, as well as types of services. This growth has occurred even though the organization is without a marketing strategy, a clear understanding of the full range of consulting services offered, or well-defined fee structure. LeaderSpring needs to understand the range of market rates.
LeaderSpring asked ACT for assistance in determining an optimal path for it to launch a revenue-generating consulting business that will enable them to be financially self-sustainable (not rely on grants) and increase their impact in creating long-term transformative social change. Specifically, the deliverable was a viable action plan to launch a LeaderSpring consulting practice.
The project consisted of seven phases:
- Internal Research: Interviews with LeaderSpring staff and advisory board
- Competitive Assessment
- Definition of Consulting Services: Description of consulting offerings to be tested
- External Research: Interviews with potential clients to gather feedback on client needs, services, pricing, key contacts
- Themes emerging from interviews
- Detailed findings, conclusions, recommendations
- Business plan outline and discussion
With regard to LeaderSpring’s offering DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) consulting services to the corporate sector, ACT made 37 recommendations in eight areas:
- Knowledge and Importance of DEI
- Measuring Outcomes from DEI
- Service Ranking and Feedback
- Decision Maker
- Target Market
- Sales Advice
- Consultant Capabilities
- Need Exists— DEI is very important and should be done at a structural level to make an impact. DEI is still broad and evolving, extending beyond race and gender.
- Mid-Size, Mid-Market—Expect more sales success with mid-market firms. Budgets are still sufficient but DEI experience is more limited and systemic change is more manageable.
- Start Small and Grow—Clients consistently stated large contracts could be had, but over multiple, successive phases. Start small to show results and fit, evolve next steps.
- Top Level Support—HR/CDO/CPO will bring DEI help to a vote but will only be approved and ultimately successful if top leadership believes in it.
- Stage Will Vary—Some have yet to do a readiness assessment. If assessment done, may be existing consultants already working with the client.
- Strengths, Challenges—Strengths: connecting with people, systemic change, customization, WOC, mission-driven. Challenges: lack of diversity, limited business experience.
- DEI is Crowded—The DEI space is crowded with competitors and noisy around what value can be delivered. Long-term transformative change could be the differentiator.
- Demand Exists—There is a market for LS consulting services in the corporate world. At least four companies want to talk to LS and all have used DEI consultants.
Final Report Outline
In the final presentation, in addition to conclusions and recommendations, ACT provided a business plan to launch a LeaderSpring consulting service. The components of the business plan were:
- Market Analysis
- Market Assessment
- Target Market
- Market Need
- Competitive Landscape
- Sales and Marketing
- Product Definition
- Positioning and Branding
- Sales Process