Right before leaving my office on December 31st last year, I shook a Magic 8 ball I kept at my desk. “Will my business grow next year?” I asked it.
“Outlook Good,” it replied.
While 2020 was a hard year by every definition, my family and I are very fortunate to remain healthy and safe. My business grew. My clients continued to address the critical causes in our community.
As a way to reflect back on such an unexpected year, I jotted down a few things I want to remember, and a few lessons I learned. And I encourage each of you — if you haven’t already — to do your own recap. What stands out in your own story this year?
Furthered my journey of anti-racism.
This year was about shifting focus from diversity, equity, and inclusion to a deeper understanding of racial justice and anti-racism. 2020 accelerated COVID-19’s racialized health and economic inequities, raised public consciousness of anti-Black racism, and exposed divisive political discourse.
I began this year attending the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s National Day of Racial Healing, finding new liberatory practices centered in community, connection, and possibility. Educational resources from Equity in the Center, among others, helped me explore how white women address white supremacy, how nonprofits support leaders of color, anti-racist recruitment practices, and much more.
We’ve seen this year that the nonprofit sector is not immune to legacies of institutional and structural racism. Studies show that just a fraction of foundation dollars are granted to BIPOC-led nonprofits, signaling much work is needed to advance racial equity. As a way that I can help change this narrative, I reinvested profits from Good Insight into the Next Gen Giving Circle, which uses a racial equity lens to help a new generation learn about philanthropy. This year the circle supported small BIPOC-led nonprofits on the frontlines of housing and food insecurity across the region.
Rebranded as Good Insight.
Among the biggest wins of 2020 was rebranding to Good Insight from Carlyn Madden Consulting Services, and launching our beautiful new WordPress website (www.good-insight.org). I didn’t dream of running a consulting firm when I began freelancing in 2013, but over time, I shifted from “doing a bit of everything” to a clear approach around people-centered executive search and board development. My reputation for good insight grew among colleagues in the field, as I embarked on a career as a social entrepreneur.
Kara McCartney, Julienne DeVita, and Erin Davis provided exceptional support with web development and design throughout this process. I would be remiss in not thanking Amira El Gawly for putting Kara and I in touch, which kicked off this whole idea.
Built our capacity.
To support this new entrepreneurial journey, I reached out to SCORE, a free mentorship program from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). SCORE connects early-stage entrepreneurs with volunteer business experts.
I was lucky to match with Ken Kido, a retired banking professional with nonprofit ties as a board member, interim executive, and volunteer. Ken immediately “got” my vision for Good Insight, sharing valuable advice on business development, pitching, contracting, hiring, and finance. After meeting twice in person, we seamlessly transitioned to an online mentorship, which has greatly contributed to Good Insight’s growth and development.
Shared Good News.
Good News, our monthly letter about nonprofit leadership and governance, reaches over 600 nonprofit executives, board developers, and industry professionals each month. Enjoyed what you read? Encourage your colleagues to join in our conversation by subscribing here.
According to our analytics, you liked these articles the most:
- Building Resilient Boards (August 2020)
- Emergency Management Checklist (April 2020)
- Cost-Effective Strategies for Compensation and Benefits (November 2020)
Partnered with inspiring clients.
I often describe the Good Insight team as mission-agnostic generalists. We care more about the sector as a whole than any one cause, which allows us to work across many issue areas.
We prioritize working with small and mid-sized nonprofits, which we loosely define as operating budgets under $3M. These nonprofits share common challenges of a small staff, constrained resources, and growing boards. They benefit from our consulting model that offers affordable advice geared specifically toward their needs.
We were privileged to work with nearly 20 clients, including:
- Executive Searches: Arlington Arts Center & HumanitiesDC (launching in early 2021) and Best Buddies, Genesys Works, and the U.S.-Japan Bridging Foundation (completed)
- Governance: Split This Rock, Hurston/Wright Foundation, and City Kids, Theater Washington, and the Catalogue for Philanthropy
- Consulting: Serve DC, the Mayor’s Office on Volunteerism and Partnerships, for Ready 4 Recovery, a leadership development series and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities’ UPSTART program, serving Words, Beats, and Life, the MusicianShip, Split This Rock, Theater Alliance, The Theatre Lab, and the Environmental Film Festival of Washington, DC.
Grew our amazing team.
As any leader knows, producing high impact work requires a team. Over my 7+ years in business I worked on projects alone and with partners. Over time, I’ve learned that while I can do a lot of work as a “solopreneur,” I miss out on important perspectives and expertise.
While making a new hire in the middle of the pandemic might seem counterintuitive, we’ve been fortunate that our consulting work is growing significantly. I’m pleased to share that we hired Kessa R. Thompson as our first Talent Acquisition Specialist, to help with our booming executive search practice. Claire Huschle, Dannie Greenberg, and Tara Schultz remain invaluable members of our team.
Learned important lessons.
When you have an online presence, it is crucial to remain honest and transparent about the tough stuff. Despite all the triumphs I listed above, 2020 felt incredibly (sometimes insurmountably) difficult and it has been hard to see the silver linings. From there, I’m reflecting on a few lessons I learned this year.
- Lost out on far more work than I won. I try to stay positive and not become frustrated as I continue to refine Good Insight’s pitch to underscore the value that we bring to each of our prospective clients.
- My hyper-productivity led to burnout. While I seemingly got a lot done, I also feel the impact of not taking time off or setting good work/life systems this year. In the coming month, I will institute better WFH boundaries and create a routine that prioritizes my health and well-being.
- Invest in personal relationships. As a consultant, I am lucky to have a big professional network. But over time I found it hard to bridge professional and personal. I’ve been very lucky to join Leadership Greater Washington this year, which added a whole new set of relationships to cultivate.
I’m sending you all my warmest wishes for a restful holiday season and that we’ll have a chance to be together again in the near future. In the meantime, I would love to hear about your year. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.