Consultant celebrates banner first year with support from ACN EMPOWER Group

10/30/2022 10:08 AM | Gordon Mayer (Administrator)

michele walls

When I began consulting last year, I had no idea where it would lead or if I would make it on my own. Spoiler alert: it has been a tremendous year! ACN’s EMPOWER Early Stage Consultants Group has played a significant role in that.

After I organized MW Strategies LLC and began my journey as a fundraising and management consultant to nonprofit organizations, I quickly realized there was more to being a solopreneur than the pros/cons list I threw together last summer. So, I started to seek out resources that would expand my knowledge about the business of nonprofit consulting.

Through ACN and the Early Stage Consulting Group, I have learned that nonprofit consultants might be the experts in helping our clients, but we need our own network and support group in order to be most effective.

What’s an EMPOWER Group?

In spring 2022, ACN started their EMPOWER Groups that bring together consultants for conversations around common interests and topics. I have found camaraderie with newbies like myself in ACN’s EMPOWER Early Stage Consultants Group.

We hail from all over the United States, Canada, and sometimes even further away. We specialize in IT, website design, fundraising, grant writing, strategic listening, organizational management, and more and are serving a vast assortment of missions.

We meet monthly and intrepid ACN Executive Director Tricia Fusilero and Susan Kahan of Sapphire Fundraising Specialists keep us organized, learning, and sharing with one another in a safe and mutually supportive environment. We have gratefully welcomed more seasoned ACN professionals, including Janet Cobb and Amy Cook, who have generously shared their wisdom and experiences with us and inspired us to explore new ways of working.

Topics we have covered include:

  • how to gain visibility through speaking engagements,
  • ins and outs of RFPs and contracts,
  • finding work/life harmony,
  • structuring our time and boundaries effectively,
  • consulting versus coaching, and
  • how to partner with other consultants.

We discuss trends and personal successes and challenges that provide support in the often lonely world of sole proprietorships and encourage each other to expand our horizons. We make referrals and share ideas.

For example, when someone in the group was concerned about not having launched their website yet, several of us reassured them by noting we didn't launch websites until a few months of business operations--and also that you don't have to launch everything all at once or keep everything the same forever.

We formed our own LinkedIn group to keep in touch between meetings and boost each others’ posts. Every meeting, we come away with actionable information and helpful resources.

As a result, I look forward to more effectively supporting my clients and their constituents with this knowledge gained while also keeping a balance with the other parts of my life. Whether you have been in nonprofit consulting forever or are just starting out, ACN and its EMPOWER groups are a great way to build your practice.

Would I still be a consultant one year in, even if I never found ACN and its EMPOWER Groups? Probably - but having a supportive network and benefiting from the experience of others who’ve been where I am has made a huge difference. The power of a network makes all the difference--and ACN is a great network.

Remember, ACN members can add comments or questions on each blog post. 

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