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How I Became An Accidental Nonprofit Consultant

If you told me 10 years ago that one day I would trade the boardroom for the breakfast table as my preferred workspace, I'd have probably shaken my head and wondered about your sanity. I spent most of my career in Southern California as a market research consultant to Fortune 500 companies. And for most of that time, I found my work exciting. I had a brilliant business partner and we took on major research challenges and complex projects for over 12 years together.

Then life threw us a few curveballs, as it does, and we both were ready for other kinds of challenges. I became a parent and moved back to my hometown near Chicago. I had the pleasure of working part-time for some of my favorite market research clients while I raised my son. What a blessing!

As my son got older, it was clear he loved to sing, so I signed him up with a community children's chorus. And that is where it all started. The years went by, and of course, I volunteered for the children's chorus. And of course, I joined the board. And of course, I acted as the interim Executive Director when the need arose. All the while I was still working with my big important corporate clients. But then I really surprised myself. I lobbied to become the permanent Executive Director of this lovely little nonprofit children's chorus. Something my MBA packing-designer suit wearing-C suite meeting-self could not have predicted. It was impulsive, and a big financial change and I've never been happier.

It wasn't long before I realized that this isn't an unusual path. Many nonprofit leaders come to their work 'accidentally.' What we have in common is that we know firsthand the value of seeing our efforts play out in the lives of the people we serve. No corporate promotion or big paycheck can replace the satisfaction of knowing you've helped a child find their passion, a family put food on the table, a student get into college, a disabled person get a job, or an animal find a forever home.

This year, I started Faust Fundraising to help nonprofits in Greater Chicagoland with their grant programs. Not every path is clear at the beginning, but I've learned to love the twists and turns, and am grateful to be where I am.

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