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501 Consultants: Helping helpers be successful

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Vicky Scharlau, founder and CEO of 501 Consultants Inc.

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Here's a partial list of 501 Consultant's clients

  • Access to Healthy Foods Coalition
  • Autobody Craftsman Association
  • Cascade Education Foundation
  • National Grape and Wine Initiative
  • Community Foundation of North Central Washington
  • Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition
  • Columbia Basin Development League
  • Hartline School Preservation Association
  • Hispanic Latino Legislative Organization
  • Icicle Arts
  • National Water Resources Association
  • Planning Association of Washington
  • Red Mountain AVA Alliance
  • Early Learning Coalition; Partnership for Children and Families
  • Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers
  • Washington State Wine Commission (Wine Advisory Committee)
  • Washington Wine Industry Foundation
  • Washington Museum Association
  • Washington Wine Technical Group
  • Wenatchee Valley Humane Society
  • Woods House Conservatory
  • Yakima Basin Integrated Plan

— 501 Consultants

CASHMERE — All the good stuff that gets done by nonprofits? It takes careful management, strategic planning, communication skills and financial smarts.

That’s where 501 Consultants Inc. steps in. The Cashmere-based company focuses on honing leadership skills that make a nonprofit’s “helping” go smoothly and effectively.

Vicky Scharlau, who in 1994 founded the consulting outfit that became 501 Consultants, says she launched the company after seeing many nonprofits struggle with business basics that were hindering their operations and success.

501 Consultants provides guidance and training for starting (or ending) a nonprofit, strategic planning, group facilitation, project management, administrative services, financial planning, board or committee training, management skills, grant writing, communication and more.

Providing such services is important, said Scharlau, because “nearly every person living here has been involved in or has been touched by a non-profit” sometime in their lives.

501 Consultants’ client list — which shifts as nonprofits mature and communities evolve — includes dozens of organizations in the Wenatchee Valley and across the Northwest.

Last month, Wenatchee Valley Business World sent Scharlau a few quick questions about 501 Consultants and how its expertise can benefit nonprofits.

Q. What’s your largest client? Smallest?

A. There’s quite a range when it comes to the size of our clients and the services we offer them. Our consulting services run from the full management of large organizations (budgets of $750,000 and more) to work on specific projects for a few thousand dollars.

Q. You work daily with nonprofits, so you see their value to our communities. What would be the effects if nonprofits disappeared?

A. Devastating effects. Just look around, and you’ll see the huge service nonprofits provide to our population everyday, especially in the realm of human services. Then look at the nonprofits that provide advocacy on behalf of an issue or a client base. Also, as government shrinks, nonprofits can fill a vital and valuable role for a target population when addressing specific needs.

Q. What are common misconceptions and challenges of nonprofits?

A. There are three primary ones:

Misconception: Thinking that “nonprofit” means the organization can’t or shouldn’t make a profit. Nothing could be further from the truth. If your nonprofit does not make a profit each and every year, it will die. Or certainly struggle and then slowly die off. Profit means your income is greater than your expenses. The reason for the nonprofit definition by the IRS is that board members cannot be paid like they could be in a for-profit setting.

  • Challenge: Thinking that a nonprofit doesn’t need a plan (strategic or otherwise). If the board, and certainly the staff, are not expending efforts toward a mutually agreed upon goal that’s clear to all, then what are they doing with their time?
  • Challenge: Determining a clear line between the board’s job and staff’s job. This usually stems from board members not having a job description (or they do, and then ignore it) or sometimes not acknowledging an experienced executive director or staff members.

Q. What will the future bring for local nonprofits — and for 501 Consultants?

A. Our target audience includes North Central Washington but only in the past few years have we done much business here. All the rest of our work to date has been national or statewide. Quite simply, there aren’t many companies that do what we do and have the expertise that we do. So we believe our future to be quite bright!