Pro Bono Strategic Consulting

Compass provides highly personalized strategic consulting projects to nonprofits by recruiting, training, and supporting teams of volunteer business professionals. Our consulting projects help our clients address key strategic challenges and opportunities. While our processes help guide our work, each Compass project and team is unique and tailored to the specific needs of each client.

For more information or to be added to our mailing list, please contact Melissa Lapica, Managing Director, at

“Compass gave us an opportunity to do some important benchmarking research that we didn’t have the time or resources to complete on our own. Our team’s final recommendations laid the groundwork for some important changes in how we operate and will have a lasting impact on our organization.”
– Future Founders, 2021-22 Compass Client

Consulting Projects

Compass is committed to Chicago and the nonprofits that provide invaluable services in our communities. While we previously opened the nonprofit application in the spring, we are making changes to our programming that we believe will have greater impact by modifying our schedule and duration of consulting projects. After receiving feedback, we are tailoring to the needs of our business professional volunteers and clients – with the desire to reach even more nonprofits that do important work in our communities. 

The nonprofit application closed on October 20.

Application Process & Timeline

  • Nonprofit application deadline is October 20
  • Applicants are strongly encouraged to schedule a conversation with Melissa Lapica to discuss project options.
  • Nonprofit clients will be selected and notified in mid-November and will attend an orientation in January.
  • Projects begin late January/early February and conclude by the end of May 2023.
  • Volunteer applications will open in November, once clients have been selected. Our volunteers receive training in late January, prior to the start of projects. Project teams typically include five volunteers.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Registered IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit
  • Local mission – benefits the Greater Chicago community
  • Mission does not promote specific religious beliefs or political parties/movements
  • Minimum budget of $100,000 and two full-time equivalent staff

Service Lines

Consulting projects are organized into different service lines. Nonprofit applicants must select one service line for their project. Click below to read the full descriptions.

Board Development

  • BOARD GAP ANALYSIS AND PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT: Survey and interview the board of directors to identify gaps in skills, industry expertise, board expertise, satisfaction with board performance, and opportunities for improvement.
  • BOARD STRUCTURE AND ORGANIZATION: Review the board’s organization, structure, roles and responsibilities, accountabilities, processes and goal setting. Review by-laws and board’s policies and procedures. Make recommendations for further development.
  • ORGANIZATIONAL PERFORMANCE EVALUATION AND GOAL SETTING: Help the board with annual goal setting for the organization as a whole, for programs and processes, and for key staff, including performance evaluation processes. Review/ update the position descriptions of the ED and senior staff as needed.
  • DASHBOARDS/PERFORMANCE METRICS/BEST PRACTICES: Survey comparable organizations and available literature to identify the best practices in performance evaluation and measurement. Help the nonprofit develop performance metrics, at a high level, that are appropriate to its needs and consistent with best practices.

Decision Support

Designed to provide flexible consulting and data -driven support to nonprofit leaders faced with a menu of multiple opportunities and challenges that demand resolution. Decision Support Project can help nonprofit leaders address and prioritize challenges, explore new opportunities, evaluate options and work to chart a course for the future.

Funding Strategy

  • FUNDING SOURCES AND USES ANALYSIS: Are you overly dependent on any particular source of funds? What opportunities exist for diversification, if any? Review how comparable organizations and competitors are raising funds. What investment is required to generate a specific new funding source?
  • ROI FOR VARIOUS INITIATIVES (MAILING, EVENTS, PROGRAMS): Analyze the cost effectiveness of various fund-raising strategies. Does a strategy produce a positive ROI? If not, are there strategic reasons to continue? How effective are certain fundraising strategies with particular donor groups? What kind of analysis should the client be performing regularly to ensure that fundraising dollars are devoted to the best possible use?
  • CONVERSION RATES FOR SMALL DONORS: Analyze the donor population. Which demographic groups or types of donors are most likely to be converted to a higher level of support? Who leaves and why?
  • BEST PRACTICES IN FUNDING STRATEGIES: Literature and Internet search for best practices, innovative approaches. Interview subject matter experts and ‘best in field’ organizations for new opportunities.
  • BOARD ROLE IN FUNDRAISING BEST PRACTICES: Define the roles and responsibilities of the Board’s Development Committee, its relationship with a Director of Development and fundraising staff, shared goal setting, Give or Get requirements. Educate board members to be spokespeople for the organization.
  • NEW PROGRAM GROWTH OR START-UP EVALUATION (EARNED INCOME FOR NONPROFIT): Evaluate a proposed earned income venture, new or existing program with a recommendation to pursue, modify or terminate based on pre-established criteria. Describe the role of the board in evaluating new ventures.

Strategic Alignment

  • STAKEHOLDER INTERVIEWS: MISSION AND VISION DEVELOPMENT: Interview organizational stakeholders regarding the organization’s mission and values. Perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis as a key input into a strategic planning process.
  • CLIENT SATISFACTION SURVEY/FOCUS GROUPS: Survey the nonprofit’s client population regarding satisfaction with services received and/or conduct focus groups to identify areas for program improvement or opportunities to provide additional or modified services.
  • JOB DESCRIPTIONS AND GOAL SETTING/EVALUATION FOR SENIOR STAFF: Review position descriptions, organization structure, scope of responsibility, and goal setting for senior staff positions.
  • PROGRAM ROI, BUDGETING: Review sources and uses of revenues for specific programs and identify which programs are net sources of revenue and which are net users, or when a specific investment will break even. Budgeting would be involved when multiple programs or ‘activities’ are being run without a break-out of the costs and revenues specific to a program, including the appropriate allocation of overhead.
  • USING DATA FOR DECISION-MAKING: Assess how data collection processes, tools, and analysis can better support decision-making in areas such as financial management and reporting, managing volunteers, clients, or donors, or other internal areas. Research tools that visually show results of data collected.
  • PERFORMANCE AND OUTCOMES METRICS DEVELOPMENT: Review existing program metrics. Identify new or enhanced metrics that are most consistent with the organization’s stated strategic objectives, potentially including a review of the information systems currently in use.
  • PROGRAM IMPACT: Review existing metrics that measure program impact. Identify new or enhanced metrics. Review systems currently used to track metrics. Recommend ways to communicate impact to different audiences.
  • PARTNERSHIP OPPORTUNITIES: Identification and initial screening of potential partnership opportunities.
  • PARTNERSHIP ANALYSIS: Develop a SWOT analysis of your organization and prospective partner(s). Look at risks and opportunities associated with the partnership. Assess potential costs and make a recommendation on whether to pursue a partnership.

Strategic Marketing

  • BRANDING AND POSITIONING: Evaluate and enhance Brand definition and messaging. Recommend ways to increase awareness among target populations. Review communications, public relations, and marketing content to ensure all are aligned with new brand and reinforce the mission.
  • MARKETING ROADMAP:Develop a strategic marketing roadmap for a specific program or organizational priority. Provide recommended tactics to achieve identified goal (e.g., educating clients regarding program services, reaching new audiences, increasing participants).
  • MARKETING BUDGET ASSESSMENT: Establish measures that assess the ROI on current marketing and provide insight to inform the best way to utilize marketing budget.
  • DIGITAL AND SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY:Increase or strengthen digital and social media marketing. Recommend digital strategies to build awareness and maximize engagement.

Sustainability Analysis

Create 3- 5 year strategic financial plan highlighting places of strength as well as risk factors. Provide information about the competitive landscape and environmental factors that may affect the organization now or down the line.

On Demand Program

On Demand engagements are short-term (eight weeks) pro bono services in which Compass matches one volunteer with one nonprofit to address an immediate strategic challenge.

For more information on applying to On Demand, please contact Melissa Lapica, Managing Director, at

Eligibility Requirements

  • Registered IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit
  • Local mission – benefits the Greater Chicago community

On Demand Options

The On Demand Program has two options, Consulting Projects or Thought Partners. The application allows you to note which type of project you’re interested in and for what topic.

  • On Demand Consulting Projects
    On Demand Consulting Projects address a single issue. Compass connects nonprofits to a business professional with the expertise to quickly understand and address an immediate challenge with tailored recommendations. Volunteer consultants are not expected to support implementation, although many do continue to work with their client in a personal capacity after an engagement concludes.
  • On Demand Thought Partners
    Compass connects seasoned business professionals with nonprofit leaders. In a confidential setting, Thought Partners provide a trusted ear for scenario planning, courses of action, and may also facilitate conversations among board, staff, and leadership. Depending on a client’s needs, a Thought Partner may offer several informal calls or schedule formal check-ins with an agenda.
Chicago Scholars, 2021-22 Compass client