Can corporate business acumen change the way nonprofits are perceived and run? That was the million-dollar question for Melissa Beck, who became a first-time nonprofit CEO in 2013 after earning her MBA. Five years later, Beck had her answer. By investing in her team, and approaching growth with scale, she helped youth mentoring organization Big Brothers Big Sisters more than triple in size with an $8 million operating budget.
One thing she learned along the way, however, is that the future is never certain for nonprofits. “You’re only able to be so creative, so innovative, so grand-thinking, when you know you’re handicapped,” she explains. “The rug could be pulled out from under them at any time.” So Beck decided it was time to raise the bar for charitable giving. Earlier this year, she made a jump to the for-profit sector as president of consulting firm Anonymous Philanthropy. Founded by Noah McMahon, the company advises clients on how to maximize the impact of gifts in the seven-figure range. Beck describes the Anonymous model as a triangle: one philanthropist, one cause and one celebrity who helps to create an amplified giving experience. She says this experiential element adds personal meaning to philanthropy and helps clients understand the real impact of their investment. One client, on a two-week mission trip to India, fitted thousands of youth with hearing aids that allowed them to hear their mothers’ voices for the first time. The project concluded with an opportunity to meet the Dalai Lama, who blessed the group for their efforts and brought global awareness to the cause. “This family will never forget something like that,” says Beck. “I believe that getting involved in a cause should be deeply fulfilling, and that doesn’t happen with writing a check.” Time well spent, indeed.