Our Firm’s Next Stage

by Josh Jacobson

We are proud to announce that our firm is rebranding… err, sort of…

Going forward, we will be known simply as Next Stage, dropping the word Consulting. Our new(ish) logo is above.

In truth, I never thought I would become a consultant. When I moved to Charlotte from New York City a decade ago, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I grew up. I felt I had climbed the mountain of fundraising for the performing arts and was prepared to run an organization. And I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be a cultural nonprofit. I had (and have) so many passions.

In 2008, Charlotte was a very different place than it is now. This was Charlotte just before the onset of the Great Recession and being a new guy from out of town rendered me persona non grata. “But who do you know locally?” I knew very few people. What I did know was process and strategy – I had learned best practices from some of the strongest nonprofit executives I will ever meet. But without a local network, I was going to have a tough road ahead. Indeed, people who turned me down for positions then are now friends and colleagues.

I share this because working as a consultant was not in my mind when I arrived in Charlotte. Without other options, and honestly without a clear direction of what I wanted to be in the nonprofit sector anyway, I reluctantly took up the title. And during my 10,000 hours learning the profession, a seed was planted that germinated as Next Stage.

It took a while – in fact, it took years – but nonprofits in Charlotte finally did wake up to the need for stronger leadership and resource development regardless of local footprint. Now, a talented professional from out of town is a coveted executive in our nonprofit sector. I was asked recently to assist with a nonprofit search where the preference was for someone not from Charlotte. Let that sink in for a minute.

My firm started in January 2014 with the charge to change what consulting could be. We sought to partner deeply with the nonprofits we serve, doing the homework needed to earn the right to offer assistance. We recalibrated the high cost of local consulting purposefully, to make strategy help affordable for many more types of organizations. And we sought out innovators and big thinkers – people who would be willing to invest in the partnership as deeply as we do.

The result? Another 10,000 hours and more than 100 nonprofit engagements later, Next Stage is reborn. While we have always seen ourselves as a social entrepreneurship company serving as a tool of community leaders on both sides of the philanthropic divide, we now understand the true nature of work. We see real gaps in our community – gaps that we feel called to help fill. Following last year’s addition of Caylin Haldeman as Next Stage’s Project Development Manager, we are expanding our model to serve Charlotte’s nonprofit and philanthropic communities by building out capacities that allow us to explore local challenges to our sector.

We feel we have already redefined what consulting can be, but it is a word that will always conjure different things for different people. We remain deeply committed to consulting with nonprofits – what we now call client partnerships – but we see a new horizon for our work.

Going forward, we are committing to three distinct lines of business:

  • Client Partnerships – We are extraordinarily proud of our 100+ engagements with nonprofits across the Carolinas, with a concentration in our hometown of Charlotte, NC. We believe that area nonprofits benefit from our efforts to dive deeply into organizational strengthening and resource development. As we look to the future, our goal is to serve as Charlotte’s go-to firm for vision-centric planning and implementation, and we welcome your help connecting with organizations seeking stellar counsel.
  • CULTIVATE – Our incubator for emerging nonprofits launched as a pilot in 2018 with participants including Charlotte is Creative, Promising Pages and Learning Help Centers of Charlotte. Early returns have been extremely positive, with each of these organizations taking substantial steps toward deepening impact and increasing sustainability. Next Stage is planning to expand the program in 2019. The application will be available beginning in early September 2018, so please help us source amazing founder-led organizations.
  • Thought Leadership – In early 2019, Next Stage will be publishing a research-informed report examining the challenges and opportunities of talent recruitment and retention in Charlotte’s nonprofit sector. Helping improve the ability of local nonprofits to source and keep talent is emerging as a leading issue facing our community, and Next Stage sees a need for leadership on this topic. This research begins in summer 2018, and we hope you will help us by responding to our requests for survey participation and interviews.

It’s a new day at Next Stage. We look forward to serving you – all of you.