Case Study | The fighting chance of consulting

publication date: Sep 28, 2018
author/source: Matthew Dubins

Starting my own business a year and a half ago was as idealistic as it was reckless.

I had just spent a stint working at Cornerstone Group of Companies and I was itching to get back to the non-profit world. I really didn’t connect enough with the client work while I was there. I wanted to infuse my data analytics activities with meaning again.

Near the end of my employment there, I started developing an idea that I had been thinking of since I was working for KCI. I would acquire the list of all registered charities from the CRA, pinpoint those that I thought weren’t large, but rather small to mid sized, and use data analytics to help change their operations for the better.

I planned to mail 2,500 postcards to them, email them, even call them to get their business! At the time I thought to myself “Yeah! This plan is great. Soon I’m going to be super busy and all of this marketing will be totally worth it!”

Let me tell you how that worked out: the beautiful postcards were a complete waste of my money, the emailing was a waste of my time, but the calling was a different story.

Despite the fact that it wasn’t hugely successful, the calling did win me some business. Most of the time, I was either leaving messages on charities’ answering machines, or talking with actual people. Talking ended up being a confidence booster, and sometimes I spoke with the nicest people who just brightened up my day!

This ended up being important, because due to a low success rate, I spent a lot of time in 2017 battling hopelessness. “What did I do? Why did I do this to my family?” were thoughts that would cross my mind a few times.

Then, 2018 happened. See, I had been doing a lot of networking up until then and so once 2018 happened things started going really well for me. Upon finishing up some neat impact investment analytics work (thank you, John Gormaly!) I met with and started work for my biggest client (92nd Street Y). That’s been a huge support for me and also super interesting work with respect to their Giving Tuesday movement. Thankfully, other clients have come my way after that!

Also, I’ve been obsessively making web apps that fulfill an analytical function for the benefit of the non-profit user. It’s my belief that making complicated stuff as simple as possible is part of how I will continue to make change in this sector.

In parallel, I’ve also been extremely vocal about my knowledge and opinions on social media and especially Hilborn!

Have business aspirations in the non-profit world? Some advice:

  1. Hands-off marketing methods don’t seem to work. Just network! Relentlessly. Online or offline. Form those relationships and don’t expect to win them sitting behind your computer screen.
  2. Believe in yourself, don’t be shy, and have faith that the world needs what you have to offer.

Matthew Dubins is Chief Donor Scientist at Donor Science Consulting: a truly Canadian consulting agency using predictive analytics, data visualization, dashboarding, and address correction to help you do better fundraising with the help of your data! You can reach him at and read more at

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