Meet Us at the Consult Café

Consult Cafe

With my limited resources, how do I amplify the work of my organization? What are the most cost-effective ways to reach my audience? How do I attract new members? How do I attract positive media attention?

This is just a small sample of the many questions Boston’s nonprofit community brought to the first-of-its-kind “pop-up consulting” event—the Consult Café—hosted by Babson College in partnership with The Castle Group, a Boston-based communications and events management agency, and the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network.

Leaders from more than 30 nonprofits gathered at Babson’s Boston location earlier this month to explore ways to put entrepreneurial thought into action that would advance their missions. The group also shared best practices in marketing, social media, media relations, and fundraising.

Participating organizations ranged from the Boston Arts Academy to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation and from Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center to the Find the Cure Breast Cancer Foundation.

The only criteria for participating in the free program were that organizations be a recognized 501(c)(3) with an annual operating budget of less than $5 million as of 2017. More than 90 qualifying nonprofits expressed a desire to attend, but space was limited to 30.

Cheryl Kiser, executive director of Babson’s Lewis Institute and Social Innovation Lab, served as the keynote speaker and inspired the attendees with six tips for social change.

Kiser’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion moderated by award-winning WGBH reporter Tina Martin, in which leaders shared personal stories of advancing their organizations’ missions despite limited resources.

The panel was then followed by round-table discussions led by marketing and communications experts, during which participants worked through solutions to their specific challenges and opportunities.

Strengthening Boston’s Nonprofit Network

“I was stunned that we had 100 percent participation among the nonprofits that registered, and that we had to turn so many away,” said Jane C. Edmonds, Babson’s vice president for programming and community outreach. “That tells me that there is a real need for the consulting advice that we collectively were willing and able to share.”

The concept for a free, pop-up consulting event originated during The Castle Group’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of the agency’s founding, according to The Castle Group’s Public Relations Account Director Nicole Mazzarella. However, it wasn’t until Edmonds invited Castle Group Vice President Hilary Allard to tour Babson’s Boston location that the idea for the Consult Café come to life.

Edmonds recalls brainstorming with Allard about how they could work together to make the Boston community stronger by engaging with the city’s nonprofits. Combining Babson’s approach to social innovation through Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® with The Castle Group’s expertise in public relations, social media, and marketing, and the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network’s connections with organizations was a win-win-win.

“The Consult Café demonstrated the power of collaboration, not only between the three organizers, but also among the nonprofit leaders that participated,” Edmonds said. “You could feel the synergy in the room as people shared their own best practices with one another, made new connections with other nonprofit leaders that will carry forward, and walked away with concrete ideas that they could put into practice right away.”

“This was one of the most successful community outreach events Babson Boston has hosted so far,” Edmonds said.

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