Since 1987, Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) alumni have volunteered through the Stanford Alumni Consulting Team (ACT) to provide pro bono management consulting services to nonprofit organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The organization was founded by Debbie Cohen, MBA '87, who envisioned the organization while enrolled at the GSB. As a second year student, she convinced professors to let her develop the idea into a business plan as part of her coursework for two classes. Classmates enthusiastically reviewed her plan and provided input.
Alison Elliott, MBA '84, signed up to work on the first prototype project, a marketing analysis for San Francisco Performances. Intrigued by the concept, she became involved in formalizing the project process. After the successful completion of the first project, four more were launched.
A committee of volunteers began managing ACT and established two project cycles per year. As ACT grew, the volunteers realized the need for a more formal relationship with the GSB. In 1991, ACT became a nonprofit affiliate of the GSB Alumni Association, formalized its board and, in 1993, hired its first part-time executive director.
Over the coming years, with grant support from the Packard Foundation, the GSB Dean's Fund and the Luke B. Hancock Foundation, ACT began to assign experienced volunteers as project leaders, introduced new service offerings, and formalized its marketing and volunteer recruitment efforts. In 1998, ACT became fully integrated within the GSB and since that time the program has been funded by the School.
ACT has become a model for linking the management skill of business professionals with the needs of nonprofit organizations. One of the largest pro bono resource providers in the Bay Area, ACT contributes an estimated value of more than $3 million in consulting services annually.