by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

Next up is another profile of a firm featured in the new eBook I produced with A Billion+Change and Riggs Partners for #GivingTuesday.  These write ups are being featured one by one with permission from the eBook team.

M Powered Strategies – a consulting firm focused on service, accountability and better communities.

Our story — M Powered Strategies (MPS) is a small consulting firm based in Washington, DC, that specializes in advanced management strategies for senior executives in the federal government.  Under the leadership of CEO J. Kendall Lott, MPS offers four primary service lines: Program Development, Organizational Development, Collaboration, and Professional Development.

Why we’re unique — Although our primary client is the federal government, we’re in the business of serving not only our clients, but also each other and our community as a whole.  It’s this desire to serve that led us to launch our Community Engagement Portfolio, which includes pro bono programs and skills-based volunteerism.  This portfolio allows us to extend our mission of positively transforming the effectiveness and quality of organizational management into the nonprofit sector.

Our skills-based volunteerism — Our Projects for Partners program is just one way we empower nonprofit organizations to achieve their goals.  The focus of this pro bono program is on providing skills volunteers to organizations facing management challenges through customized three-month projects.  For every engagement, our consultant team takes a unique approach to project design by compelling the partner organization to be highly involved in determining the scope of their pro bono project.  By working together to understand the problem, we enable the partner to better understand their condition, identify solutions and then help them to execute actions that will lead to improved operations and maximized social benefit.

Our challenges — A primary goal within all of our pro bono programs is to ensure that our partners receive the same quality of service as our federal government clients.  To maintain the strong reputation of our company, we treat all pro bono projects the same as we do our federal contracts, ensuring that the work is performed by qualified consultants who have the capacity to transfer necessary knowledge and skills to the client.  As a small business, availability of appropriate subject matter experts can sometimes be a challenge.  Although we gain so much through our pro bono consulting, it is often difficult for us to predict future resource demands that may affect the availability of our consultants for these projects.  To overcome this challenge, we have put processes in place to ensure that once engaged on a pro bono project, our consultant team is fully committed to the scope over the duration of the project.

How serving helps our business — MPS is vested in making a sustainable impact on our community and is proud to support our employees’ interest and passion for giving back.  Providing pro bono consulting services to nonprofit organizations opens up another market to us where we can exercise our skills and expertise while providing our consultants with a new perspective for management challenges.  Operating in this different environment leads to thought innovation that can later be applied to projects with our federal clients.  This ability to strengthen our company’s core competencies and diversify our employees’ experiences is bolstered by the unique professional development opportunities that our pro bono projects offer to MPS consultants.  Each pro bono project allows consultants to grow personally and professionally and to hone their technical skills.

Advice for other small businesses interested in skills-based volunteerism — The strategic decision to make community engagement initiatives a priority in our company has contributed to the success of our pro bono programs.  Pro bono work is one of MPS’ core capabilities, and our Community Engagement Portfolio is a significant contributor to our ability to attract and retain our employees.  The launch of pro bono programs requires serious commitment as well as financial investment.  If you plan to do something similar in order to differentiate your firm in the workplace, you will need to make the program a strategic priority.

Want to learn more?  Contact Kat McDonald, Community Engagement Manager.

Rachel Hutchisson (@RachelHutchssn) is VP, Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy at Blackbaud, Inc., a 2,700-person technology company that works exclusively with nonprofit organizations. She built the company’s “give back” function from the ground up, relying on expertise she gained in over two decades of working at the intersection of the business world and the nonprofit sector. Rachel is a member of the #GivingTuesday core advisory team, leads her company’s involvement in the Billion+Change pro-bono initiative, and serves on the boards of the Association of Fundraising Professionals International, The Giving Institute, and the Coastal Community Foundation. She is also a member of the core team that launched TEDxCharleston in 2013. She is a graduate of Dickinson College and received a master’s degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

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