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Carol White, CBWhite
By Meghann Beer
Our “Five Questions” series highlights the expertise and individuality of our member consultants. Members are interviewed by an ACN peer. We hope this series will reveal the breadth, depth, and overall expertise of our membership!
I had the pleasure of talking to longtime ACN member Carol White, who has served as a marketing consultant to the nonprofit community since 1998. During that time she has provided marketing research and strategy services to scores of esteemed clients, including Openlands, Northwestern University, the National Cancer Institutes, The Cradle, and the Old Town School of Folk Music.
How would you describe your nonprofit career?
After 15 years as a consultant to for-profit service-oriented businesses, Carol decided to pursue her longtime interest in nonprofit organizations. She created a spreadsheet of contacts connected to or within nonprofit organizations (remember the days before LinkedIn?) and spent three months meeting with people, discussing her skills and interests and learning more about nonprofit needs. Carol feels fortunate to have connected with people who helped her realize the need for her market research expertise in the sector and encouraged her to found CBWhite. Emphasizing the importance of in-person networking for new consultants, she notes: “Three months of networking turned out to be three months of sales calls. I was jumpstarting my practice.”
How do your services help nonprofit organizations?
As CBWhite’s website states, Carol guides “nonprofits towards their destinations through the art and science of market research”. Carol explains, “I look at a question or challenge that an organization is facing and I help them think about whether input from external stakeholders would enable them to make better decisions. I do market research and help solve the problem”. Carol was always passionate about working with organizations whose mission she cared about, but she was surprised at how fulfilling it was to address key issues with the help of market research.
What recent engagement gives us the best opportunity to understand your work?
Carol recently worked with a youth choral group that was facing declining enrollment. To better understand what motivated participants, Carol surveyed parents of current students. Carol says, “If we can look at why people who have already engaged have chosen to do so, we will better understand how to market to others”. Pointing out that “organizations often take things they do well for granted”, Carol’s research discovered that families felt the organization was providing really fun programming and they weren’t highlighting that enough. In the second phase of engagement with the client, Carol interviewed a broader group of parents not currently engaged in the program to better understand how the organization could make their programs more relevant. The project was a real success in helping them improve their program enrollment.
Carol provides two unique services that add value for her clients. First, many projects include a “marketing playbook” that compiles the results of the research and what the organization needs to emphasize in all its external communications. Additionally, Carol donates 6 hours of time, good for 6 months after the project, to review clients’ marketing strategies for consistency with the research findings and recommendations.
How do you think being a long time member of ACN has impacted your consulting practice?
Carol joined ACN when she began her consulting practice. She values the constant engagement with consultants in different practice areas and says, “This has been an effective and efficient way to understand how my work fits into the sector”. Carol thinks that ACN has provided her a great referral network and “a community of colleagues to talk to about how to be a good consultant and how to deal with the challenges.”
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
Carol has established a consulting model that works well for her and for her clients. She likes that the size of her practice allows her to be the key person in both selling and conducting the work. The network of ACN colleagues provides flexibility to bring the necessary array of expertise to almost any project. Carol finds her work incredibly exciting and she says, “The most delightful part has been how much I have seen my project results get used; that is really fulfilling.”
It was inspiring to spend time with a successful nonprofit consultant who clearly loves and is grateful to be in this line of work. I would highly recommend that you make an effort to get to know Carol. You can learn more about Carol and her consulting practice at http://cbwhite.com.
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