Nonprofit Network Blog

Introducing Our New Consultant: Chris Smith

Thursday, October 28, 2021 3:36 PM | Tracey Wilson (Administrator)

We are so excited to present you with one of the newest members of Nonprofit Network's staff— Chris Smith!  With extensive experience in nonprofit, public, faith based and senior management, Chris brings his unique perspective to offer nonprofits seeking to make change and build capacity. So we'll let Chris introduce himself.

Chris Smith
Capacity Builder

As part of the new cohort of Capacity Building Consultants I am pleased to be a member of the growing Nonprofit Network team. I believe that each member of the Nonprofit Network team brings a unique and complementary set of skills to the table, which can be leveraged to improve the performance of nonprofit organizations. I have personally served in several roles in the nonprofit, local government, academic and philanthropic sectors for over 30 years. 

I served as a chief operating officer for two different local government organizations; served as a grant maker at a large foundation; served on several public boards; serve on the faculty of two universities, and I am currently the board chair for a nonprofit organization based in Grand Rapids. 

In addition, I’ve served as a paid consultant to nonprofits and churches for nearly 20 years. I’ve designed community programs and services, prepared grant proposals, prepared strategic and operational plans, and I have served as a coach for nonprofit and public sector senior managers.  In each of these roles, I try to draw upon my purposefully diverse array of career experiences to tackle nonprofit and community problems.

The aspect that I enjoy most about my work is the opportunity to engage in highly intellectually stimulating work which allows me to expand my professional gifts of research, analysis, strategy, critical thinking, and problem-solving. I enjoy being part of a team and helping to solve complex problems—particularly those that if resolved will result in a stronger community.  

In Paulo Freire’s seminal book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire argues that teachers and professors should not see students as empty vessels into which educators (as the presumed source of knowledge) infuse information in a one-directional interface. In academia, this often manifests as the “sage on a stage” lecture-heavy style of delivering course content. While this method can be self-satisfying for the lecturer, it is often disengaging and ineffective for students. Instead, educators should strive to create a learning environment which encourages students to be active collaborators in their own acquisition of knowledge. 

I view nonprofit consulting in the same manner. My role as a consultant is not to have all the answers to the test. In fact, it is often not necessary for me to possess deep expertise in the nonprofit organization’s area of service delivery.

My job as a consultant is to serve as a dispassionate facilitator who may have somewhat of a clearer head and unclouded vision simply because I am not as emotionally attached to the problem at hand. My role is to come prepared with the appropriate analytic tools and to ask the probing questions which may reveal the core problem(s). Once the core issues are revealed, the nonprofit staff (who themselves are the experts) often have the solutions, and only need facilitation in terms of structuring an effective course of action that can address the presenting problem. 

I look forward to collaborating with Nonprofit Network’s clients in problem-solving, strategic planning, and building the capacity of your organization to better serve the community.  

You can learn more about Chris and our other staff HERE

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