Monday, November 9, 2009

The Nonprofit Consultant (Part 1)
What a Nonprofit Consultant Should Be – The Offensive Lineman Theory

When I was in sixth grade gym class, I was given a yellow mesh jersey to go over my normal jersey. This indicated that I was an offensive lineman and not one of the “sexier” positions such as running back or wide receiver. My designation as a lineman followed me all the way through college, and it is also very closely aligned to how I work as a nonprofit consultant.

If you ask moderate sports fans, they can probably name a favorite player, but they probably cannot name one offensive lineman. Linemen are not in the limelight. But, ask any football players or gridiron experts about who the most important player is on their team, and they will likely name an offensive lineman.

To parallel my professional career, I once served as an Executive Director, the equivalent of a football team’s quarterback. Both are unbelievably difficult jobs, and both carry similar benefits of being in the public arena, making speeches, accepting checks, being quoted, etc. However, while I noticed that I was able to make a great impact as an ED, I have made the most impact as a nonprofit consultant.

Sometimes I see nonprofit consultants who struggle with using their unique role within the team to help move and guide the process from the support position. Many times consultants want to move upfront and play the sexier positions to be in the limelight. The sooner a consultant can understand that he has chosen a profession in which his work will be conducted through others, then the better his work, the organization, and the sector will be. Consultants, grab your yellow mesh jersey with pride.