Stanford Alumni Consulting Team IX

Fall-Winter 2020
Project Type
Project Focus
Organizational Development,
Strategic Planning
Organization Type
Community or Economic Development


The Stanford Alumni Consulting Team (ACT) provides pro bono consulting expertise to nonprofits in a wide range of areas including strategic planning, marketing, earned revenue, financial sustainability, and organizational growth. ACT projects are customized to the specific needs of each client organization. Envisioned by a Stanford GSB student and co-created with an alumna in 1987, ACT has grown to be one of the largest pro bono resource providers in the San Francisco Bay Area. ACT is also active in Monterey, California, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas, and Pasadena, California. GSB alumni volunteers donate more than three million dollars of consulting value annually. Since the program’s inception, 1,550 volunteers have completed more than 900 projects for 725 different nonprofit clients. ACT has supported 76 projects at Stanford alone, in 47 different schools, institutes, centers, or departments


The GSB has pledged to take action to drive change towards dismantling systemic racism. Truly making systemic change requires every part of the organization examine what it does, how it does it, and boldly transform itself. ACT has accepted this challenge by prioritizing work with nonprofits addressing systemic racial injustice and projects with stated aims to serve Black communities. Our target, set by Dean Levin, is to undertake 50 projects over the next five years for those organizations. To effectively meet this goal ACT recognizes its need to recruit and engage Black alumni and other alumni of color, and create a culture of embracing diversity, committing to equity, and fostering inclusion within its operations and volunteers.

Project Objectives

Design anti-racism development opportunities for ACT volunteers to enhance the effectiveness of project teams and their work with nonprofit organizations.

Project Overview

A major part of the project research consisted of a series of interviews, focus groups and surveys with various constituencies. These included:

  • “Benchmark” organizations – pro bono volunteer organizations similar to ACT, mostly associated with major universities
  • Black/Latinx ACT volunteers
  • ACT project leads
  • ACT volunteers who recently completed a pilot DEI kickoff orientation and follow-on anti-racism educational ‘journey’. 
  • ACT clients and some of their board members
  • Stanford GSB organizational behavior professor
  • GSB DEI consultant

In addition, the team reviewed, collected, and organized content resources deemed potentially useful to anti-racism and DEI educational development for volunteers.

Key Recommendations

The team made two key recommendations and several suggestions. The key recommendations were:

  • Provide a high-level orientation to ACT at project kickoffs including an overview of the program, ACT’s Racial Equity initiative and how it relates to the GSB’s programs, introduction to DEI, working with nonprofits and how they differ from for-profits, and team effectiveness tips. 
  • For teams working with what are deemed Racial Equity clients, and optimally for other project leads, provide a more in-depth cultural ‘level-setting’ session about racism and introducing anti-racism. Emphasize reflective exercises that can be part of team discussions to help build team trust and understanding. 

In addition, based on feedback from volunteers, the team suggested that ACT consider ongoing activities where GSB alumni could further their anti-racism educational ‘journey.’ These could include relevant Stanford resources, ACT Racial Equity team case study discussions, ‘book group’ type group discussions, and guest speaker sessions, amongst other ideas. 

To support these recommendations, the team cataloged a variety of resources that could be used as part of curricula content. A searchable database was created.

The team also made suggestions related to ACT’s DEI initiative, beyond the scope of the project, for ACT to consider as part of their upcoming strategic review. 

Final Report Outline

  • Review of Project Plan
  • Activities Summary
  • Key Takeaways & Strategic Context
  • Recommendations, Suggestions, & Ideas
  • Questions / Discussion
  • Appendix – supporting details