A Yale SOM Student’s Perspectives on Social Sector Consulting Firms
At SOM, many students aspire to work in management consulting. Many would also like to support social and/or environmental causes that are important to them. For those students, consulting to the social sector can be a great opportunity to put into practice the full range of MBA learnings, see a broad range of clients and challenges, and increase the efficacy of vital mission-driven organizations.
Although many SOM alumni work these companies, social sector consulting firms are less well known at SOM than McKinsey, Bain, BCG, etc. Many students express an interest in social sector consulting, but don’t really know which firms exist, let alone which would be the best fit for them.
What follows here is a short attempt to remedy that issue. Hopefully this document will offer a starting point to those who might like to work in the space. Assembled by alumni consultants with Wellspring and Bridgespan, a list of names and brief descriptions of notable social sector consulting firms follow. (Note: Entries are ordered alphabetically. Their lengths do not connote importance, just the amount of information available to the author.)
Arabella Advisors provides consulting services to clients looking to improve their philanthropic and impact investing strategies. Founded in 2005 and currently a certified B Corp, they have helped move $100bn worth of assets towards impact. They have over 50 staff members operating across 4 offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.
Bernuth and Williamson have about 20 employees and offices in Princeton, Washington DC, and Saratoga Springs. They have six specific service offerings: Monitoring and Evaluation, Brand Strengthening, Implementation and Change Management, Organizational Assessment, Nonprofit Governance, and Organizational Strategy.
Bridgespan Group was originally founded as a way for Bain and Co. to expand its pro-bono work for nonprofits. Since 2000, Bridgespan has been an independent organization, but remains a close partner with Bain. Serving both nonprofit and philanthropic clients, they are one of the largest nonprofit management consulting firms, with between 100 and 200 employees. They focus on four broad fields: Education; Children, Youth, and Families; Public Health; and Global Development. They also work in knowledge creation and dissemination, posting a nonprofit jobs board and sharing nonprofit cases, podcasts, etc. They have offices in Boston, New York, San Francisco, Mumbai, and Johannesburg. Bridgespan is incorporated as a nonprofit.
CCS Fundraising has around 60 employees and has been offering fundraising and development consulting services to nonprofits for over 70 years. They work mostly in the US and Europe. Their signature service is designing and managing major fundraising campaigns, although they offer other practice areas, including fundraising strategy consulting and interim development management.
Dalberg Global Development Advisors was founded in 2000 as a strategy consulting firm, but has grown to do more. They now have several lines of business: Dalberg Advisors, Dalberg Capital, Dalberg Design, etc. Dalberg is focused on global development, with 9 offices in Africa, 5 in North America, 4 in Asia, 5 in Europe, and 1 in the Middle East. They work with NGOs/nonprofits, governments, and for-profits.
Development Guild provides executive search and fundraising consulting services to nonprofits. They have about 40 staff and 40 years of history. They have offices in Boston and New York, and are incorporated as a for-profit.
FSG Consulting was founded in 2000 by HBS professor Michael Porter and Mark Kramer to help foundations act more strategically. Today they have 160 employees in six offices on 3 continents. They host a resource library of “ideas to change the world,” and facilitate knowledge sharing through their Collective Impact Forum, Shared Value Initiative, and Talent Rewire. FSG has specific practice areas: Strategic Learning and Evaluation, Foundation Strategy, and Corporate Social Responsibility.
Ideas42 translates academic insights from behavioral science into measurable impact for their clients. Starting in a small office at Harvard University, they have since worked on water conservation, college retention, access to contraception, etc. in more than 35 countries. Currently, they have over 100 staff members across New York, Boston, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and New Delhi.
Nonprofit Finance Fund (est. 1980) is both a consultant and lender to nonprofits with about 90 staff. They are registered as a nonprofit 501c3 and a Community Development Financial Institution. They focus on innovation and have been a pioneer of pay-for-success initiatives in the US.
Redstone Strategy Group has about 30 staff. They work in Climate & Energy, Shared Prosperity, Education, Health, and Conservation & Environment. They analyze, design, and implement six strategies in partnership with clients: Policy and Politics, Service Delivery, Partnerships, Impact Investing, Grantmaking, and Research. They publish case studies and ideas on their website. They have offices in Redwood City, Boulder, and New York.
TCC Group is based in New York with an office in Philadelphia. Started in 1980, they now have about 50 employees. TCC works with foundations, nonprofits, and companies, and is a certified B Corp.
TDC is one of the nation’s oldest nonprofit management consulting firms, and has grown significantly since its founding in 1968, though they’ve remained Boston-based. Today, TDC has about 20 staff and serves the breadth of the nonprofit sector, as well as governmental and philanthropic organizations. TDC is incorporated as a nonprofit.
Third Plateau is a social impact strategy consulting firm located in San Francisco with around 25 staff members. They provide a range of strategy services for their clients, including strategic planning, philanthropic investment support, development strategy, next-gen engagement, leadership coaching, and training & workshops. They also host a 12-week Third Plateau Social Impact fellowship program to help foster the next generation of social impact leaders.
TMI Consulting is a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) management consulting company founded in 2010 with national and international recognition in their field. They provide a wide variety of DEI services to their clients, ranging from trainings to full-scale organizational assessments and high-level strategic planning engagements. They are recognized as the first DEI consulting Benefit Corporation and operate out of Richmond, VA.
Wellspring Consulting was founded in 2002 by a former partner at the Boston Consulting Group. Wellspring currently has about 20 employees working out of New Haven, Boston, New York, Boulder, and Los Angeles. They focus specifically on strategy issues of central importance to client organizations, with over 98% of projects successfully implemented. They work across disciplines (including market sizing and analysis, financial modeling, focus groups, survey design, etc.) and span the entire social sector. Wellspring is a certified B Corporation.
Whelan Group is a New York social impact consulting firm that focuses on providing fundraising and campaign management strategy to over 300 regional, national, and international nonprofits. They operate primarily in education, community development, arts & culture, faith-based services, and social services. Their efforts have helped raise over $1B for their clients.
By Liam Grace-Flood MBA ‘22