Dream it, Build It, Sail It – 15 Years of Impact

Jan 30, 2024 | All Posts, From The Partners, Highlights from the Latest Newsletter

By Mary Moss and Susan Ross, Founding Partners

Dream It. We’d like to say that 15 years ago we had a fully charted path for what success looked like as we left our jobs at Saint Mary’s School (Mary) and Duke (Susan). We envisioned a firm that would help our nonprofit community and educational institutions with capital campaigns and other services through tailored deliverables, not templates, and it had to reflect our personal values. Among others, nothing is more important than relationships. In the Triangle, we saw a gap in the marketplace and felt we could answer a call using three decades of experience. The economy was rosy in 2008, and we were leaving our institutions in excellent shape, so we expected an easy transition to consulting. Ha! The economy tanked before we were out of the gates – no campaigns would be launched for years, and Boards and donors were skittish. But we had already committed to this bold move, and we believed in ourselves, so we stayed the course.

First lessons – Believe in yourself and be open to learning. Prepare for the unexpected.

Build It. We focused on what the market offered us, which was to facilitate organizational assessments and strategic planning, create fundraising plans, conduct board trainings, and consult on a host of internally focused efforts to strengthen nonprofits. We took huge pay cuts, were scrappy, became interim staffers ourselves, and did what was required to get ourselves known. We learned a lot from our beloved mentor, Ann Curry, and her firm in Atlanta, Coxe Curry. A big step during this time was to attract our first associate, Kate Hearne, who is now our VP of Business Operations. Our first clients were Habitat Durham, Roanoke Island Historical Association, and the Fuqua School of Business.

Second lessons – Find your mentors and listen well. Hire talent.

Sail It. In our 15th year, we have grown to a firm that has nine partners, not two. And instead of just one associate, we now have 22 associates, of counsel, and subject matter experts. We grew organically from three clients to more than 265 clients, most of whom call us again and again. Our turnkey services and deliverables have stayed true to mission, each engagement is tailored to the client — we still don’t use templates. Our approach is professional and also personal, and we work in teams to bring the best minds to each nonprofit challenge. Our business model expanded to include interim solutions™ as well as executive search, faith communities counsel, and leadership development. We moved beyond the Triangle, serving clients across the state and occasionally beyond. We are continuing to grow and change as the world changes around us.

Third lessons – Stay true to your values, be adaptable, and challenge yourself to grow with the flow.

After 15 years, we still love what we do, and YOU, our nonprofit partners and the communities you serve are our “why.” We hope you feel the love, but moreover, we hope you feel stronger and better prepared to tackle your mission with confidence with us on your team. It’s been a great journey so far, and we have an exciting strategic plan guiding our path ahead. Thank you for entrusting us as your strategic partners.