In 2012 I started Colton Strawser Consulting to work with nonprofit organizations to provide them with the tools they needed to succeed. My consulting often included providing services around organizational development, program design/evaluation, and fundraising. I have been consulting off and on since 2012 as both my primary source of income and a part-time side hustle to support vacations and other frivolous spending.
When I started my graduate school journey, consulting became the main gig that allowed me to pursue a Ph.D. and work part-time as a research assistant at the University of San Diego, where much of my work was focused on nonprofit capacity building. My research has, and always will be, focused on applied work to help improve the operations of nonprofit organizations.
Two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. later, I took a full-time job in academia with the promise of being able to do this work and grow the next generation of nonprofit professionals—Plot twist… that is not what happened. While I loved working with my students and doing community research, I quickly learned (what I already assumed) that higher education was not the right place for me. My goal in life is to make an impact, and academia is set up in such an arbitrary way that it does not incentivize or reward scholars for making an impact in their communities. The goal is often to “Publish or Perish,” but my nonprofit soul could not find joy in that—and I was ultimately told that I was not a good “fit” for academia because I wanted to make a difference and was released from my position due to institutional factors beyond my control (Okay, that’s not the whole story, and academia is full of petty and fragile people, but I will unpack that at a later date).
Since finding out my position was canceled in March 2021, I have reflected on what to do next. When you lose a job, even when it is beyond your control, there are waves of emotion that include anger, shame, and pretty much all the stages of grief. When former academics say that they were abused by higher education, they are not exaggerating. There is indeed psychological warfare, the fanning of the flame of imposter syndrome, and simply eating people up and spitting them out like they are replaceable. Having trained as an applied researcher, I always told myself, “Higher education needs me more than I need it,” and I am settling with the fact that this is true and, but I can still do the things I love—teaching and research—in a different environment.
The tagline used at Colton Strawser Consulting is Empowering Organizations to Create Change®, and after lots of reflection, I decided that I needed to empower MYSELF to create change. So, I have decided to consult full-time—the first time I have gone “all-in” on consulting. This step into consulting full-time is an exciting and scary time, a time full of possibilities and apprehension to grow my business in a new area (Dallas-Fort Worth, TX), and a chance to select what I want to do. While you will likely still see me at many of the regular nonprofit academic conferences and read articles from me in nonprofit journals, I will also be helping local organizations strengthen their program evaluation, build out robust fundraising systems, and strengthen organization practices to have a more significant impact.
I put out my “Open for Business” sign out already and have a few projects that I am already working on, but I look forward to connecting with more potential clients. I provide consulting in-person and remotely, assist organizations with coaching, and provide various research services. Do you have a project coming up you would like to discuss? Feel free to schedule a FREE 30-minute strategy session! Folks think they do not have the budget for consulting, but I always have ideas on how we can help you support your project. So, take advantage of the 30-minutes and find out how we can empower YOU to create change…because, after all, that is what I am here to do.
Colton C. Strawser, Ph.D., CFRE