News at Smith

Terps Discuss Nonprofit Consulting with Rachel Gibson of Raffa Consulting

Dec 04, 2017
Experiential / Reality-based Learning


Last month, Raffa Consulting shared their thoughts on cutting-edge topics related to consulting in the social sector at the Center For Social Value Creation’s Lunch & Learn Series. This two-part social impact Lunch & Learn Series brought in industry leaders from top social consulting firms to share their experiences and expertise with students at the University of Maryland.

Raffa Consulting is a professional services firm that began as a CPA firm. Over the years, CEO Tom Raffa began to grow the nonprofit space by diving into everything from outsourced accounting, to nonprofit audits, outsourced HR, and outsourced IT. Today Raffa’s work is 99 percent focused on the nonprofit space with their overarching mission being to focus on making the world a better place.

Raffa’s representative, Rachel Gibson, began her career in consulting in a capacity building role where she provided support to nonprofit leaders in a very underserved community. Later in her career, she acted as the CEO of a consulting organization that worked in looking at immigrants, where she was able to learn “culturally specific capacity building”. Although this was a huge learning experience, Rachel realized that being a CEO was not for her as it caused her to lose connection from the work she was doing. Today, Rachel works at Raffa focusing on strategy and leadership as well as cultural integration merger work.

From her experience Rachel has noted that one of the current major tensions in nonprofit culture is intergenerational, leaving gaps in skill-sets that millennials can capitalize on. Nonprofits have faced a great challenge from the fact that Baby Boomers are lacking the skill-set needed for program management and evaluation. In addition, skills like “graphic facilitation” including the ability to lay out complex ideas on one page, create dashboards, and master Excel are all in high demand. Despite the issue of intergenerational conflict, the nonprofit space has come to a strong consensus that data is essential in providing effective quantitative reasoning.

In closing, Rachel shared tokens of consulting advice she had gathered throughout her career.

“I realized that when really experienced nonprofit leaders ask a question, they love to stump the consultant.”

Over time, she realized that just because she was the consultant, it did not mean it was essential to have all of the answers right away. She learned to be content with “raggedy endings” because “consulting can be ambiguous and that’s okay.” 

- Kara Gordon, Impact Ambassador for the Center for Social Value Creation 

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.