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What Do Social Impact Consultants Do (Explained)

Social Impact Consultants help organizations and people make a difference in the world. This includes nonprofit organizations, businesses, and governments that want to create positive change through their programs or policies.

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Social Impact Consultants

Social impact consultants work with all types of organizations, from nonprofits to social enterprises, to multi-billion dollar corporations.

They work with social entrepreneurs, business leaders, government agencies, foundations, and community organizers.

A social impact consultant helps organizations of all kinds understand how they affect the world around them, make changes based on that understanding, and measure the impact of those changes.

Social impact consultants help nonprofits obtain funding by demonstrating positive social impact – in other words, helping them show donors that they’re making a difference in the lives of the people they seek to serve.

For businesses, social impact consulting firms help them serve their customers more effectively by offering products or services that solve meaningful problems for positive social change and increase engagement among their customers and employees.

For governments, social impact consulting helps them make better policy decisions by informing decision-makers about what works in practice and what doesn’t – and why.

For startups, social impact consulting can help their leaders increase their positive impact by perceiving their social entrepreneurial initiatives as a great opportunity for potential investors to back their projects.

Why Social Impact Consultants Are Important

Nonprofit organizations need funding to do their work.

Social impact consultants have great new ideas for solving important problems (e.g. unemployment, climate change, poverty, human rights, etc.) facing society today, but often don’t know how to get started or how to demonstrate it.

They also help governments and businesses measure the social impact of their decisions.

For example, if you’re a big company, you might want to consider the global warming impact of your products before deciding whether to build a factory in Bangladesh. Or you might want to avoid selling cigarettes in developing countries, where they contribute to lung cancer.

What problems do governments and businesses need help solving?

  • They need help understanding that there’s a problem.
  • They need help figuring out how bad it’s and how much it’s costing them.
  • And they need help figuring out what to do about it.

Why Social Impact Consultants Are Needed

In a complex society, an individual’s choices have a huge impact on everyone else.

For example, if I buy a gun for self-defense, it makes things safer for me, but it also increases the risk that someone will accidentally get shot.

This means that when you decide how to live, you’ve to consider more than just yourself: your decision affects other people, too. And if you decide something that ends badly for others, it can be almost as bad for you as a financial loss.

Social impact counselors try to help their clients anticipate these impacts and avoid mistakes.

In doing so, they often find themselves in an awkward position: knowing things their clients don’t know and about problems their clients would rather not hear about.

The Challenges of Being a Social Impact Consultant

A social impact consultant is a job like any other. You’ve to deliver work that meets your client’s needs and expectations under the pressure of time and money.

The difference between this type of consulting and other types of consulting, such as business, technology, or social innovation consulting, is often that it’s associated with nonprofit organizations and government agencies.

From the outside, this career looks pretty glamorous: You’re changing people’s lives and getting paid well for it. But the path to becoming a social impact consultant isn’t easy.

The first challenge most people face in this field is defining what a social impact consultant is.

The name isn’t very descriptive and there’s no clear definition of the term. This is perhaps because there are so many different types of work that fall under this term.

Social impact consulting has something in common with traditional consulting in that you’re hired by an organization to develop a strategy to solve specific problems while making a positive impact on society.

How to Become a Social Impact Consultant

Social impact professionals often use data, systems thinking, and an understanding of human motivation to find and scale solutions that improve lives and strengthen communities.

They work at the intersection of business and society to help organizations achieve their mission and advance their cause.

Social impact professionals can be found in organizations of all sizes: for-profit and nonprofit, small and large, national and international.

Social impact profession job titles include:

  • Social Impact Analyst
  • Impact Investing Specialist
  • Program Officer
  • Impact Manager
  • Impact Analyst
  • Equity Analyst
  • Impact Coordinator
  • Social Impact Specialist
  • Impact Communications, Brand & Marketing Manager

I’d put it this way: a social impact consultant is someone who helps nonprofits, governments, businesses or other organizations make the world a better place.

More than that, if you do this work, you’re by definition a social impact consultant. You don’t have to wear the job title – most people don’t.

Examples of Social Impact Companies

A large consulting firm helps clients integrate sustainability into their social impact strategy, and implement strategies to improve their environmental and social performance.

Key ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) consultants in this space include Accenture, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Ernst & Young (EY), McKinsey & Company, Deloitte, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), A.T. Kearney, Tetra Strategy Advisors LLC, FTI Consulting, etc.

Some companies focus more on energy management and carbon footprint issues. For example Mercer Oliver Wyman Group Inc, Climate Change Capital Ltd.

As for communications, branding, and marketing:

How Much Social Impact Consultants Make

According to Glassdoor:

the average salary in the Social Impact field ranges from $51,499 per year for a Program Assistant to $87,282 per year.

According to salary.com:

The average salary for Project Consultant/Associate Consultant, Social Impact at companies like APCO WORLDWIDE in the United States is $132,184 (as of October 29, 2021), but the range is typically between $104,894 and $159,473. Salary ranges can vary widely and depend on many important factors, such as education, certifications, additional skills, and the number of years you’ve spent in your profession.

What Organizations Hire Independent Social Impact Consultants

Social impact consultants, sometimes called social venture consultants, are a new breed of consultants who help entrepreneurs and nonprofits create businesses that have a positive social impact.

The world of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is a natural partner: environmental, educational, governmental, and international development organizations often hire them to build sustainable businesses.

For-profit companies also hire social impact consultants. These include startups for whom building positive social impact is a central part of their business model, as well as larger companies looking to raise their corporate social responsibility (CSR) profile.

Social impact consulting is a growing field – in recent years, the number of companies offering this service has increased, as has the number of industries they serve.

If you don’t think social impact consulting is right for you, but you still want to contribute to social change, there are many other jobs in social impact.

Related: What Are Social Impact Jobs