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.

The SISGI Group – a consulting and training organization that turns good ideas into real solutions for nonprofit organizations.

Our story — The SISGI Group is a consulting and research group that specializes in nonprofit capacity building. Bringing together independent consultants with a variety of expertise, we address cross-sector issues and a range of specialties impacting organizations, individuals and groups working within and on social problems.  Our CEO comes from the nonprofit sector and knows the value of skills-based volunteers in helping organizations meet their missions. When developing the organization’s business model, she incorporated a focus on pro bono work as a part of the firm’s values and approach. 

Why we’re unique — The SISGI Group is committed to operating as an 80-90% virtual organization, leveraging the benefits of technology and cloud work environments. This allows for the least amount of overhead and administrative costs, access to the most talented global staff and partners, regardless of geographic location, and the ability to decrease our environmental footprint.  The SISGI Group also operates SISGI Beyond Good Ideas Foundation as a nonprofit division, focusing on internship programs, educational resources and collaborative work as well as free and low-cost consulting.

Our skills-based volunteerism — Our organization requires each of our consultants to lead a pro bono consulting project annually with a nonprofit organization. This allows nonprofits that do not have the financial resources for consulting services to benefit from our work.  Our consultants provide a variety of services including strategic planning, fundraising planning, grant writing assistance, evaluations, and program design assistance. In addition, nonprofits can submit a request for projects for our pro bono services through our website to meet their specific needs.

Our CEO and a group of 10 interns from across the country did a nine-month engagement with the Alliance Center for Independence (a New Jersey based nonprofit focused on disability support and awareness), helping them prepare for their Disabilities Pride Parade and to develop a social media policy. The organization was severally underfunded and behind in planning for this annual community event, which celebrates the diversity of ability within New Jersey. The SISGI Group helped develop systems and budgets for managing parade costs and assisted with overall event funding strategy. We also provided lone-term program planning support, helping them develop case statements for grant writing and operational systems development.

Our challenges — Our nonprofit partners are sometimes small, which can make it difficult for them to coordinate the work needed to meet the larger outcome of a pro bono consulting project.  Although they see the value in the projects, they also question whether it’s worth the time to learn new approaches and strategies. We address this by helping partners prioritize work so it’s no so overwhelming.  It’s also difficult choosing the organizations that will receive our donated time and talent.  We receive two to three applications per month through our online system and can only manage about six to 10 projects a year.  We are looking at ways to combine nonprofit organizations within projects to increase our outcomes and the number of organizations we can serve.

How serving helps our business — Our consultants have seen a direct return on investment with pro bono projects.  At times, these projects evolve into paid projects with the nonprofit organization or their partners. Our student interns gain valuable real world experience, a better understanding of the challenges nonprofits face and ways to find solutions.  Graduates of our internship program have indicated that this experience has been invaluable in their professional development and ability to problem solve within their careers.

Advice for other businesses interested in skills-based volunteerism — Institutionalize your volunteer efforts as much as possible.  If you find a partner organization or group to work with, allow your staff the time to volunteer in a regular and supported strategy that is part of their existing work plan. This makes it easier to implement and to get buy-in from your team.

Want to learn more?  Contact Thenera Bailey, President and CEO.

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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