Group of people discussing in a circle

The projects were just the beginning…

  • Free, high-quality business strategy consulting solves a critical pain point for grassroots nonprofits;
  • Providing free strategy consulting to local nonprofits proved a vitalizing outlet for private sector professionals eager to make a difference in their community; and
  • The lasting relationships that blossomed between and among volunteers and nonprofits were as meaningful as the projects themselves.

Founded in DC as “Community Service Initiative.” Launched five pro bono consulting projects with 20 Harvard Business School alumni volunteers


Rebranded as Compass


First corporate sponsorship secured


First full-time staff member hired


Incorporated as an independent 501(c)(3); Launched strategic planning projects


Launched 4-month pro bono consulting team projects


Expanded to Philadelphia; Launched On Board


Expanded to Chicago; Surpassed 500 volunteers per year


Established the Sorkin Center


Launched On Demand; Surpassed 100 nonprofit clients per year with 180 projects


Expanded to Twin Cities


Rebranded as Compass Pro Bono


Rebranded pro bono consulting team projects as On Track



Pro Bono Consulting

Our pro bono consulting services have evolved as community needs have changed, from our original small team projects to now small team, large team, and one-on-one projects.

Our first offering – 4-6 month business strategy consulting projects for nonprofits, conducted by teams of 5 private sector volunteers – was modeled on existing business school alumni club volunteer consulting programs, including Harvard Business School’s Community Service Initiative in Boston and Stanford’s Alumni Consulting Teams. As word got out, and demand grew,

Strategic Planning

Through our first few project cycles, we observed that nonprofits needed more strategic planning support than was feasible in a 4-6 month volunteer-led project. In response, we launched two-year-long, volunteer-led, strategic planning projects. After 37 such projects it became clear that the 2-year timeframe was unwieldy for both nonprofits and volunteers, and that strategic planning work necessitated more hands-on project management than was reasonable to expect of volunteers. We shifted focus to strategic alignment projects, focusing on the research and identification of strategic choices that precede a nonprofit’s creation of a strategic plan. In 2022, we relaunched strategic planning as a low bono service line. A paid Compass staff member leads all strategic planning projects, supported by a hand-picked team of experienced Compass volunteers.

On Board and The Sorkin Summit

Nonprofit board service is one of the most impactful community roles a local businessperson can play. Yet, small, local nonprofits perpetually struggle to attract private sector board members, and many businesspeople interested in board service don’t know where to start. To address this market gap, in 2014 we launched On Board, and in 2016 the Sorkin Summit.


Our expansion has been organic – led by volunteers who had experienced the power of our work and wanted to bring it to another city they cared about.

Philadelphia (2013)

Chicago (2016)

Twin Cities (2021)

Brand Evolution

We launched our first projects under the name Harvard Business School Community Service Initiative. As alumni from other MBA programs swelled our volunteer corps, we changed our name to Compass Volunteer Consulting Alliance. Our founders chose the imagery of a compass to reflect our founding mission of helping nonprofits find their way through business challenges. By the time we incorporated as an independent 501(c)(3), we’d colloquially become known simply as Compass.

In 2023, we officially rebranded to Compass Pro Bono. The phrase ‘pro bono’ comes from the Latin pro bono publico, which means ‘for the public good.’ This addition reflects not only our evolved mission of empowering thriving, equitable, resilient communities through forging lasting cross-sector ties, but also our status as an independent, mission-focused nonprofit.

Strategic Inflection Points

When our founders – Burgess Levin, Gus Bessalel, Hilary Joel, Melissa Williams, and Suzanne Cox – launched our first round of projects, they weren’t thinking about building a lasting organization; they simply wanted to be useful in their community during a deeply traumatic time. Volunteers’ and nonprofits’ transformative experiences that first year inspired them to run another round of projects, then another, and another. The first big inflection point came when program demand exploded beyond the capacity of volunteer staff.

10th Anniversary Celebration
10th Anniversary Celebration
10th Anniversary Celebration
Richard Marriott, 15th Anniversary Celebration
15th Anniversary Celebration
15th Anniversary Celebration
Joe Suarez, 15th Anniversary Celebration
15th Anniversary Celebration
Board Leadership Award from The Center for Nonprofit Advancement
Project Launch 2015
Project Launch 2015
Volunteer Celebration Event 2017
Professor Michael Wheeler, Social Enterprise Conference, 2015
Social Enterprise Conference, 2015
Social Enterprise Conference, 2015
Social Enterprise Conference, 2015
DC Volunteer Celebration 2018
Twin Cities Volunteer Celebration 2023
Dalila Wilson-Scott, Philadelphia 10th Anniversary
Christopher Holland, Philadelphia 10th Anniversary
Philadelphia 10th Anniversary Celebration
Sorkin Summit 2023
Sorkin Summit 2023