Cover of How Consultants Shape Nonprofits by Leah Margareta Gazzo Reisman
How Consultants Shape Nonprofits
Shared Values, Unintended Consequences
Leah Margareta Gazzo Reisman

November 2024
246 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503635364


Excerpts and More

Groundbreaking research illuminates the pivotal, problematic role of consultants in the nonprofit world.

The nonprofit sector leans heavily on consultants to guide strategic planning, advise on fundraising strategy, gather data on program effectiveness and more. How Consultants Shape Nonprofits explores how consultants, while working diligently to customize solutions for their clients, reinforce status-quo practices and ideas while prioritizing the opinions of people in power (nonprofit funders, leaders, etc.) over those of lower-level staff and communities. Consultants thus leave unaddressed some of the most pernicious problems in the nonprofit sector. The book's important conclusions about the complex role of consultants in the nonprofit world are based on more than a year of ethnographic research and nearly 200 interviews with practitioners. Dr. Reisman concludes with guidance on how consultants, nonprofit leaders, and donors can better collaborate, and overcome traditional "blind spots" in the nonprofit-consultant relationship.

About the author

Leah Margareta Gazzo Reisman (PhD, Princeton) is a sociologist and nonprofit leader. Her research has been supported by the NSF and the Mellon Foundation, and has appeared in the Stanford Social Innovation Review and the Chronicle of Philanthropy. She is a Program Officer at The Barra Foundation in Philadelphia, and a Research Fellow at the John Brademas Center at NYU.

"Rigorously researched and beautifully written, How Consultants Shape Nonprofits illuminates the ubiquitous but largely under-the-radar practice of nonprofit consulting, revealing the integral role it plays in both promoting innovation and reinforcing field norms.The book's vivid narratives of nonprofit consulting will elicit nods of recognition from both consultants and their clients."

—Lawrence McGill, Founder and Principal, Ambit 360 Consulting

"What makes Leah Reisman's advice invaluable is that it is based directly on her discerning observations of actual consultant organizations. Reisman puts actionable social science research to work, revealing the extent to which too many current nonprofit consultants inadvertently reinforce traditional behaviors instead of facilitating innovation."

—Stanley N. Katz, Lecturer with rank of Professor of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University

"In her compelling account of consulting organizations at work with nonprofit institutions, Reisman raises all the right questions. Essential reading for nonprofits in every field, for consultants who advise them, and for any readers interested in strengthening the business arrangements we make and live by."

—Alberta Arthurs, Consultant

"Leah Reisman provides a deep and critical dive into the nonprofit consulting industry, where money is exchanged for expert advice. This book brilliantly illuminates how management decisions are shaped not just by nonprofit leaders, but by consultants who move behind the scenes to shape the sector for better and for worse."

—Peter Frumkin, Gradel Institute of Charity, New College, University of Oxford

"As the ranks of nonprofit consultants grow, How Consultants Shape Nonprofits is a timely examination of the field. We need to consider the power and influence of consultants and how nonprofits, consultants, and funders navigate those dynamics. If you're interested in a more just, responsive, and thoughtful approach to nonprofit consulting practice, this book will help you along that path."

—Keith Timko, Executive Director, Support Center