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By Annisa Wanat
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!
Solutions through Insight
I huddled in the corner of a coffee shop, trying to escape the cold Chicago wind that kept blowing in with every new customer. On one of the first sunny winter days of the year, I was waiting for marketing consultant Gail Straus, the principal for GKS Consulting, to share a beverage and to pick her brain on her experiences advising nonprofits. I found Gail eager to share her knowledge and found myself furiously jotting notes about my own approach to consulting. Her slogan “solutions through insight” is a spot-on summary of the work she does every day with nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and service based-businesses.
How did you get started in consulting?
In an age when universities and non-profit organizations shied away from the term marketing as being taboo, Gail nevertheless started her career in enrollment, “unofficially” marketing universities to potential students. Continuing to hone her skills in market research, brand identity, and planning, she ultimately stepped into a more official marketing role when the university created a new department dedicated to the sector.
From there, Gail worked as a senior consultant in an agency setting before establishing GKS Consulting. As an independent consultant, Gail is better able to price and manage projects in a way that makes sense for cash and time strapped nonprofit organizations. The flexible work environment along with the opportunity to develop meaningful and long-standing client relationships continue to gratify and satisfy her.
What is the best thing about a career in consulting?
Gail enjoys the variety and discovery that comes with being a marketing consultant to nonprofits and associations because it allows her the opportunity to help organizations articulate a brand that is authentic, heartfelt, and distinctive.
How would you describe your value-added to a potential client?
Gail’s professional emphasis is in market research, brand identity, and planning. Focusing on marketing at its initial stages, she is quickly able to demonstrate her value through honesty, straight-talk, and simply doing good work right from the beginning of the relationship.
What are the biggest challenges facing nonprofits today and how do your services address these challenges?
Money and how to get more of it. As an outside consultant, it’s easier to stay out of internal politics and help organizations examine their work objectively. In order to get more funding, organizations need to face the fact that they aren’t the only ones doing great work, and they need to focus on how their organization is doing great work differently from the others.
Looking at institutional opportunities from the marketing research and strategy perspective ultimately leads to spending resources smartly. Gail’s research, strategy and planning work represent the investment organizations must make to maximize their presence in the marketplace and achieve their external relations goals.
Tell me about ACN and why you are a member?
Gail served on the board of the Association of Consultants to Nonprofits for six years and her affiliation with the organization has allowed her to network, share successes, develop her professional skills, and build credibility as an independent consultant. “ACN does a lot with a little and is a great community of colleagues to be a part of.”
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