Q&A with Jack Beckford

Introducing Jack Beckford, GCN Senior Consultant, Small Nonprofit Specialist.

Q: What has been your biggest impact through work with the GCN Nonprofit Consulting Group?

A: My biggest impact on GCN Nonprofit Consulting is that I have brought in an increased focus on providing services to smaller nonprofits that cannot normally afford consulting services, but clearly can use some technical assistance. Organizations with small numbers of staff frequently do not have specialists in marketing, fundraising, or planning. Small staffs usually focus on delivering good programs and are hired with those skills in mind, but usually do majority of the work themselves. Building an effective organization, however, requires additional administrative and back office operations that have to be included in Board and staff considerations and plans. Helping small groups assess what their priorities should be, and how to include all the various components needed for successful operations comes largely with my experience of being a part of and working with dozens of small groups over the years. 

Q: What is your drive behind moving GCN Consulting forward?

A: Well established, large nonprofits are more likely to be able to hire skilled staff, consultants, attract Board members and volunteers to enable them to operate pretty effectively. However, that is not always the case for smaller nonprofits and even those groups have problems and often struggle. I have chosen to focus my energies with smaller groups that do not have all those available resources, but still need to figure out how to best fulfill their mission. 

Small nonprofits play a critical role in people’s attempts to create something or change something that they see needs to be improved in our society. A group of people have a passion for some issue and agree to work together to improve things, whether through Neighborhood Associations, cooperative enterprises, providing needed services, or providing education or cultural opportunities that are not a part of the mainstream society. This diversity of concerns, interests and perspectives is what makes our country so vibrant. The work that I do with immigrant and refugee groups, who have come from a totally different culture, and are now figuring out how to effectively integrate into the United States, is a great example of non-mainstream organizations that can use consulting assistance. 

Having worked at two different funding agencies over the years, I know that money alone will not make any organization successful. Organizations have to know how to effectively manage the money, design, implement and evaluate programs, and also promote their work both to clients and supporters, or they will not be successful. I try to help groups understand all the necessary components of organizational effectiveness and figure out ways to deal with each of them.

Q: What doors have opened for you while at GCN?

A: Through the networks and connections that GCN has built over the years, helps me to find the organizations that I can benefit. Through GCN, I am able to help small organizations begin to find available resources to meet their needs. In an area with as many resources as the Atlanta area has, I never stop finding new people, new ideas, new approaches, potential partnerships and connections that can help make this area even more dynamic and sensitive to injustices and unmet needs. Several foundations that fund smaller organizations look to GCN to provide assistance to their grantees to increase the chances of successful impact of their grants. 

Q: What doors have you opened for your clients at GCN?

A: GCN is a terrific connecting point for small and large nonprofits, funders, and skilled practitioners. There are a variety of services offered through the GCN Nonprofit Consulting Group and courses offered through Nonprofit University. Also, there is a range of research; advocacy and networking opportunities through GCN. Organizations can greatly expand their effectiveness in many different ways by plugging into GCN for Consulting, Membership, Job Postings and Courses. 

Q: What is your vision going forward in terms of expanding the GCN Nonprofit Consulting Group?

A: I hope to help continue to develop and deliver the resources that will help nonprofits function more effectively in Georgia. I hope we can continue to expand the number of organizations that are able to take advantage of the available resources that GCN Nonprofit Consulting can help leverage.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Fresh tomatoes from my own garden – used in many combinations, as only a tomato can be: stuffed, sliced, in soups, salads, sandwiches, sauces, you name it.

Q: What is your favorite sport and team?

A: I played baseball when I was really young and I also played tennis for many years. I coached youth soccer and watched the Braves with my son, when he was younger. Now I follow University of Georgia football, especially since my son went to UGA. However, I’m not sure I have a favorite sport or team. Sports play different roles for different people at different times: as a participant, coach, referee, or fan. I’ve been all of the above. Sports can help make for a healthy lifestyle, emotionally, socially, physically and even spiritually.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your family life?

A: My wife and I moved to Atlanta in 1979, and had our son in 1984. My wife teaches early childhood education. My son is entering a career in the financial services, which means we will soon be empty nesters. Occasionally, we travel to my wife’s family home place, which is a farm outside of Nashville, TN.

Q: Who were you at 25 years old?

A: I was 25 years old in 1974 and I was living in Lexington, KY in a collective house with four other people, trying to figure out how to make a living while “doing good.” In that same year, I moved from working in a migrant and seasonal farmworker social services program to being on staff at a Neighborhood Settlement House. It was a perfect example a small struggling nonprofit. In that small nonprofit, there were four staff members and lots of volunteers, providing a range of services to youth and adults in a low-income inner city neighborhood. Moreover, I had helped start a local advocacy group advocating for Amnesty for Vietnam War resistors, and had joined my first Board of Directors – the Central KY Civil Liberties Union.

Q: What do you do for fun or as a hobby?

A: I spend a good amount of time in my backyard vegetable garden. I also manage to run enough to keep me and our family dog in decent shape