For the first EUConsult interview we talked with Martin Georgi. He shared his experience about consultancy and being a consultant for EUConsult and the importance of consultants in the world which changed so much in this last year.
Can you briefly say something about yourself?
I am a consultant for nonprofit organisations on a variety of issues such as strategy, organisational development, change and innovation, as well as fundraising and communications. Previously I worked for many years in leadership positions for national and international NGO’s in Brussels and in Germany. In a volunteer capacity, I am the chairperson of the German Fundraising Association, the Resource Alliance Ambassador for Germany, and a board member of EUConsult. I am the father of three children and am living in Bonn, Germany.
What does consulting mean to you?
Consulting allows me to share my many years of experience from activism to management and to work with organisations to strengthen their work and their impact in society. It is a process in which I am privileged to not only give but can also continue learning.
Some organisations think that they don’t need consultants – why have you been hired?
Usually, someone has recommended me after having worked with me in the past or from a previous consulting experience, or because discussions and interaction with interesting people in my network has developed into a more formal consulting relationship. Many organisations in fact do not need a hired consultant, or only for a very specific temporary purpose, but everyone can profit from an exchange of experiences and insights or from a nudge in this or that direction – including myself.
What has been your biggest success as a consultant?
Working with fantastic people. The success I have had with many organisations in developing new strategies, prioritizing their work, accessing new sources of income, overcoming internal divisions, firing or restructuring their board, and developing clearly planned communications, branding and fundraising has depended very much on identifying key people in the organisations who are willing to lead and move forward and encouraging others from outside to come join the effort.
Would you like to share something that did not succeed?
Particularly frustrating was trying to „save“ a small organisation that I had personally been very active with in my younger days that was struggling to survive. In retrospect, I lacked the necessary professional distance to be able to provide a clear and convincing way forward. On the other hand, the board was no longer willing to accept any advice or consultation at all: it had operated in „death mode“ for several years but was unable to admit it and to die quickly, and it was also not willing to make hard choices to find a way forward. And what remained of the organisation had become too weak to fire the board.
What type of organisations are your main clients?
Small and medium nonprofit organisations in a wide variety of fields, also some international clients. Due to my previous experience, there is often a thematic focus on disability, health, peace and human rights, and international development, but others as well. Most of the organisations are registered as nonprofits, but I have also worked with social start-ups and foundations.
What did you learn from the Corona pandemic?
The importance of agility paired with resilience.
Solidarity and fundraising are strongest in times of crisis! Many strong organisations were able to deal rather well with the situation and to move forward, some even to thrive and grow. Organisations who had built up reserves for difficult times had an advantage because they could invest and did not depend on temporary fluctuations in income. Organisations fearful of change, with a low level of engagement and a small database, struggled, particularly some of the smaller organisations. Some sectors such as the arts were badly hit, but also organisations whose income depended on offline services or organizing events if they were not able to move these to a digital level. The pandemic jump-started many processes such as digitalization and working remotely / from home which otherwise might have taken many more years.
The pandemic is not yet over and it is too early to draw a complete resume. I fear that some longer-term effects will still come from the difficult times that many staff members and activists had: they managed to survive, they were able to somehow balance new pressures from work and new family demands (particularly parents with small children or those taking care of elderly family members), but they are now running close to empty. We will need a period of re-creation and flexible re-entry to avoid (further) damage to people’s health and well-being and avoid losing many good people.