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Nonprofit professionals offer co-op consulting

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Michelle Speas

Michelle Speas

Todd Cohen

ADVANCE, N.C. — A group of nonprofit executives and consultants have formed a limited liability corporation known as the Nonprofit Collaborative that will offer a broad range of professional services to nonprofits throughout North Carolina at prices that will be open to negotiation.

Founded by Michelle Speas, former chief operating officer for the Chordoma Foundation, the new co-operative has enlisted eight other associates with expertise ranging from fundraising and organizational issues to technology, communications, human capital, accounting and legal services.

The Community Law & Business Clinic at the School of Law at Wake Forest University, for example, will provide clients of the Nonprofit Collaborative with pro-bono legal services in the areas of organizational development and capacity-building.

Associates in the new cooperative will continue either to operate their own businesses or work for other employers, says Speas, and five other senior fundraising officials at large nonprofits have agreed to serve on a limited basis as advisers on special projects as needed.

“We’re pooling our resources and our talent,” says Speas, who is president of the Nonprofit Collaborative.

A key marketing strategy for the new co-operative venture will be to let prospective nonprofit clients negotiate the fee they pay for services, says Speaks, who formerly was vice president of development and external relations at Old Salem Museum and Gardens and was named national Fundraiser of the Year in 2008 by Fundraising Success magazine.

Nonprofits often “don’t know or are not equipped to know how consulting services should be priced,” she says. “So they end up paying too much for services because they don’t know how to evaluate the competitiveness of the pricing they’ve received for the project or campaign, or they get a quote and the price is so high that they do nothing and go without the service at all.”

Services that typical consulting firms provide to nonprofits, Speas says, “are priced beyond their ability to pay.”

Nonprofits will be able to visit the advisory group’s website at www.nonprofitcollaborative.org and complete an online form, providing information about the services they need and their budget.

Speas, in turn, will connect the nonprofit with one or more associates of the collaborative who will find out more about its needs.

The collaborative then will negotiate with the nonprofit about the size of the fee.

“The need in the marketplace is to have affordable consulting services,” Speas says. “We negotiate to buy a house, a car. Our country was founded on the barter and trade and negotiation system. So why shouldn’t a nonprofit have the same opportunity to negotiate their ability to pay for a service they need?”

In addition to the clinic at Wake Forest’s law school, associates Speas has recruited for the collaborative include:

  • Kevin P. Chrestman, a certified public accountant, Winston-Salem.
  • Anna Eichhorn, executive director, North Carolina affiliate of Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Winston-Salem.
  • Karen Jarvis, founder and president, communications firm The Message Factory, Winston-Salem.
  • The Russell Agency, a graphics, advertising and media firm, Winston-Salem.
  • Mari Jo Turner, special-events planner, Winston-Salem.
  • Rich Hobson, president and founder, nonprofit technology firm Strategic Vision, Cary.
  • Sherry Oliver, financial-planning adviser, Lewisville.

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