ACN 2023 Year in Review

02/06/2024 11:42 AM | Allison Wong (Administrator)

ACN President, Dr. John E. Bauer, reflects on 2023 and looks ahead to 2024.

Greetings, fellow ACN members.

At the beginning of a new year, it is appropriate to pause and look back on the activities and accomplishments within our Association last year and to reflect on the challenges and opportunities we can anticipate in the new year. As your ACN President, it has been a distinct honor to represent our members, at present numbering 183 from 31 States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. This is up from 150 at this time one year ago. Although two thirds of our members come from the Chicago area, ACN is no longer just a small, tightly knit group of local consultants. We are truly a national network!

As our Association continues to grow, the needs and interests of our members continue to expand. Mindful of our mission to support consultants who serve nonprofit organizations, the Board of Directors’ priority in 2023 was on mapping a strategic future which can best position ACN to fulfill that mission and bring added value to our membership.

Because the needs and interests of our members vary widely, several EMPOWER groups were formed and led by fellow ACN members. Reflecting on their program accomplishments in 2023, EMPOWER Group leaders provided these brief summaries.

From Gioia Gianotti:

ACN’s Consultants of Color EMPOWER Group is currently made of up of members with diverse industry and service areas of focus.  This group will be embarking on virtual networking sessions to share expertise, find referral opportunities, as well as ways to potentially work together. Additionally, the group is looking into creating a resource guide that will help address questions such as: How do I know if I want to create an LLC? What questions should I be asking of my accountant? What do I need to consider when creating my own brand and marketing strategy?. The group will also be exploring collaboration opportunities with outside organizations focused on assisting consultants of color to help strengthen consultants’ business structures and operations for future growth.

From Randy Ford:

The LGBTQ+ EMPOWER Group continues to meet monthly. ACN members who identify as LGBTQ+ or allies meet to talk about current projects, business updates and trending issues in the community. In spring 2023, the LGBTQ+ EMPOWER Group launched a program to directly support nonprofits and their initiatives advancing LGBTQ+ missions. After a national application process, finalists were invited to a “Shark Tank”- style pitch competition. The winner received a financial award of funds contributed by individual ACN members and all finalists received pro bono consulting support from ACN member volunteers. 

From Lidia Varesco Racoma and Allison Wong:

The Working Parents EMPOWER Group was relaunched in 2023 to create a space for parents to discuss the unique challenges of working and parenting. The group includes ACN members from across the country with kids ranging from babies to tweens. The first meeting topic was managing workload and childcare during the holidays. Topics on hand for 2024 are Systems and Processes, and Outsourcing and Hiring.

And finally, from Susan Kahan:

In 2023, the Early-Stage Consultants Empower Group met each month averaging about 8 people per meeting and 90 attendees cumulatively. The topics discussed ranged from how to market our services, setting aside time to be strategic, how to capitalize on speaking engagements, subcontracting contracts, and how to increase your rates. At the end of the year, Susan Kahan, the leader of the group, passed it on to the new leaders, Jerome’ Holston and Kate Viana.

Thank you to the amazing leaders of these EMPOWER groups for facilitating discussion forums that address the relevant issues and challenges facing their groups. Members helping members is the hallmark of an outstanding professional organization!!

One of the greatest assets ACN possesses is its member directory. Not only is it a way to attract potential clients, but it has also provided many opportunities for collaboration and partnership between and among fellow consultants. Many thanks to Jennifer Heffernan, our Association Manager, for helping to keep it current and to the numerous volunteer members who contribute to keeping our website up to date.

Another significant asset is ACN’s volunteer Board of Directors. These 13 individuals take their governance responsibilities seriously and have spent considerable time discussing ACN’s current and future status. ACN’s Board meets every other month with the Board’s Executive Committee (comprised of the officers) meeting every month.

In June of 2023, the Board of Directors welcomed three new members:

  • Andrew Chamberlain, Elevated (Minnesota and England)
  • Andrew Clarke, Ground Floor Partners (Illinois)
  • Amelia Kohm, DataViz for Nonprofits (Illinois)

We also bid farewell with deep appreciation to two Board members who completed their service to the Board:

  • Arthur Padilla
  • Jim Javorcic

So, what does the future hold for ACN? Greater opportunity!

There are many reasons to be optimistic about our Association. Our EMPOWER groups are certainly providing meaningful spaces for members to address issues that are of importance to them and their practices. Our membership continues to grow and broaden in geographic reach. Our Board and other volunteer leaders remain dedicated to serving their fellow members. Our directory and other member resources provide a platform for marketing and professional development.

However, a number of discernable trends have also been noted that have significance for future planning. To say the least, our world has changed since the COVID - 19 pandemic and ACN along with it. What used to be taken for granted when planning in-person workshops, social events, and training sessions no longer seems to apply. Attendance at in-person events has declined without a commensurate increase in on-line participation. The needs and interests communicated to us reflect member expectations that more professional development and social opportunities should be provided by ACN. However, total dependence on volunteer leadership, limited capacity to execute programs, and the absence of leadership on committees and working groups have significantly inhibited our efforts. Navigating these challenges to find a strategic path forward that best serves the needs of our members was the focus of the Board’s work last year and continues to be its highest priority in 2024.

What we have come to realize is that the future for ACN is going to require the development of collaboration with willing partners who can help expand opportunities for business and professional development. We have observed a growing trend toward consolidation among consultant networks. We have also heard concerns from similar organizations and networks around issues like building capacity, achieving economies of scale, membership retention, and financial sustainability.

With the ecosystem factors described above in mind, the Board’s Executive Committee has been actively engaged in discussions with several other agencies, networks, societies, and associations of consultants to explore possible opportunities for strategic collaboration. The primary driver in all these discussions is finding ways to provide greater resources and opportunities for our members. What that might look like organizationally is secondary in our view to achieving that overarching goal. While it is too early to announce any such collaborative relationships, ACN members can expect some significant developments in 2024. I believe the future is ripe with possibilities and that membership in ACN will bring added value in the year to come.  

Thank you for your ongoing participation in our Association. Your thoughts and suggestions on how to make ACN stronger are always welcome. Your engagement and support as members are critically important. Therefore, you can expect periodic updates around these efforts as they unfold. Stay tuned!

The Association of Consultants to Nonprofits | 400 E. Randolph St., #3115 | Chicago, IL 60601

Copyright 2022 ACN
Privacy Policy

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software