American Philanthropic has a new name and a new look—and a renewed commitment to strengthening civil society.
Talking is easier than doing. Perhaps for that reason, many consultants like to strategize . . . and leave execution to the client. When we founded American Philanthropic in 2009, we didn’t want to stop at strategizing. We were determined to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of helping clients execute the practical advice we offered.
Today AmPhil has a new look and feel, one that bespeaks this commitment to strategic execution and the growing number of ways in which we can partner with our clients. Now, “strategic execution” could describe the management of casinos or the production of widgets. Our founding vision was something more specific: to help people flourish in the space between family and government—the space Alexis de Tocqueville described as “civil society.”
I believe that work is critically important today. I think you believe that too. But as we roll out this new look for the firm, I’d like to share with you the AmPhil “origin story”—the Straight Talk Express version—because I think it clarifies the work we’ve undertaken together.
To kick off the Straight Talk, I want to lay out the origins and evolution of AmPhil, and emphasize that our values continue to be front and center:
The problem: advice without execution or mission alignment.
In 2009, I was working at a nonprofit organization on the East Coast with my co-founder, Jeff Cain. At that nonprofit, we saw a lot of consultants looking to charge a lot of money for not much work. What’s more, many of those consultants couldn’t care less about the mission of our nonprofit; they just wanted the work.
Case in point: one consultant wanted to charge our organization $52,000 to do a SWOT analysis. We didn't know what a SWOT analysis was. When we found out, $52,000 didn’t seem like a very good deal.
We knew we could do better than that—using fancy jargon so you can jack up the price is no noble pursuit. In fact, it looked to us like there was space for a firm that wasn't limited to simply telling these organizations what to do (as with traditional consulting), but could also help clients achieve their goals with practical, hands-on help from people who were personally aligned with and truly interested in advancing the missions of those they served.
Our hypothesis: organizations need full partnership.
The average consultant is good at giving advice that would work for the average organization. Their Achilles heel is that, statistically, hardly any organization is average. So plug-and-play supposed “best practices” hardly ever work. You need to be attuned to the specific needs of an organization, which leads to a second problem:
Not everyone has the internal talent to turn strategy into action. At too many organizations, ingenious plans are drawn up, then gather dust because there’s no one at hand with the time and expertise to implement them.
With AmPhil, our aim was not just to bring value, and to do good work at a fair price, but to marry strategy with execution and values alignment. We wanted to help people put good advice into practice. In short, to be true partners to our clients. That was our idea . . . but we had no idea if it would work.
Our conclusion: it worked!
Through hard work (and more than a little luck), I’m proud to say that our hypothesis is now a proven concept. We have seen growing demand for our work and have helped over 650 mission-driven organizations grow their work since we started the company fourteen years ago. We now bring our clients a wide array of services—from strategy to fundraising to communications to data and more—that enable us to provide comprehensive solutions to many of the challenges our clients face as they seek to advance their missions.
We hired really good people early on and have continued to do so—smart, capable, principled people who believe deeply in the missions of our clients and are personally invested in their success. It’s been immensely gratifying to bring value to people who are helping to strengthen civil society—and to find new ways to do so. Hopefully, this story is just getting started.
What “strengthening civil society” means.
Sometimes, people will ask us, "What is civil society?" In short: it’s all the voluntary associations people form that are outside the home but not part of the state. Clubs, churches, schools, little leagues, and more. Civil society is what gives our communities substance and texture.
We believe in the power of voluntary associations to help make individuals and families flourish, communities more vibrant, and our country stronger. In this space, people pursue the kinds of goods—human, relational ones—that aren’t captured purely through the generation of profits.
American civil society is unparalleled anywhere else in the world. In fact, in the 1830s Alexis de Tocqueville described America's energy for forming voluntary associations as the thing that made America unique. We inherit a distinctive national tradition, and it’s what makes our country great.
From American Philanthropic to AmPhil.
With that, I’m thrilled to announce that American Philanthropic is becoming AmPhil. That's what our clients have been calling us for years (and what we've been calling ourselves internally). We think the simpler name will help us better connect with the people we serve.
With this brand refresh comes a new name, along with a new logo, new colors, and new fonts—but the same commitment to strengthening civil society. More importantly, the process of thinking about who we are and who we want to be has helped us distill our core values and core principles. I think this rebrand will help us convey those more compellingly and transparently going forward.
If we can connect with organizations that share those values and principles, we can make our country and our communities better places.
To those in the “third space,” thank you for being part of the AmPhil community. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of what you do. Thank you for your effort, your hard work, your dedication, and your commitment. We are honored to be a small part of what you are doing to strengthen civil society.