Talking is easier than doing. Perhaps for that reason, many consultants like to strategize . . . and leave execution to the client. When we founded American Philanthropic in 2009, we didn’t want to stop at strategizing. We were determined to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of helping clients execute the practical advice we offered.

Today AmPhil has a new look and feel, one that bespeaks this commitment to strategic execution. Now, “strategic execution” could describe the management of casinos or the production of widgets. Our vision was something more specific: to help people flourish in the space between family and government—the space Alexis de Tocqueville described as “civil society.”

I believe that work is critically important today. I think you believe that too. But as we roll out this new look for the firm, I’d like to share with you the AmPhil “origin story”—the Straight Talk Express version—because I think it clarifies the work we’ve undertaken together.

To hear more about this new step for AmPhil straight from our founder, give this video a watch. And once you’ve done that, head over to our new, revamped website!

The problem: advice without execution.

In 2009, I was working at a nonprofit organization on the East Coast with my co-founder, Jeff Cain. Because we worked at a nonprofit, we saw a lot of consultants looking to charge a lot of money to do not much work.

Case in point: one consultant wanted to charge our organization $52,000 to do a SWOT analysis. We didn’t know what a SWOT analysis was. When we found out, $52,000 didn’t seem like a great deal.

We knew we could do better than that—using jargon to mask fleecing clients is no noble pursuit. Instead, we saw the opportunity to bring real value to organizations doing good in the world. But that meant building a firm that wouldn’t sell costly advice. We knew we had to help organizations do it.

Our hypothesis: organizations need execution.

The average consultant is good at giving advice that would work for the average organization. Their Achilles heel is that, statistically, hardly any organization is average. So plug-and-play “best practices” hardly ever work. You need to be attuned to the specific needs of an organization, which leads to a second problem:

Not everyone has the internal talent to execute. All the planning in the world is useless without staff with the time and expertise to execute. At too many organizations, those staff are nowhere to be found.

With AmPhil, our aim was not just to bring value and to do good work at a fair price, but to marry strategy with execution. We wanted to help people put good advice into practice. That was our idea . . . and we had no idea if it would work.

Our conclusion: it worked! 

Voila! Through hard work (and more than a little luck), we hired really good people early on, many of whom are still with the firm, some now my partners. It’s been immensely gratifying to bring value to people who are helping to strengthen civil society—and to find new ways to do so. Hopefully, this story is just getting started.

What “strengthening civil society” means

Sometimes, people will ask us, “What is civil society?” In short: it’s all the voluntary associations people form that are outside the home but not part of the state. Clubs, churches, local initiatives, and more. Civil society is what gives our communities substance and texture.

We believe in the power of voluntary associations to help make a country stronger, make communities stronger, and help individuals flourish. In this space, people pursue the kinds of goods that aren’t captured purely through the generation of profits.

American civil society is unparalleled anywhere else in the world. In fact, in the 1830s Alexis de Tocqueville described America’s energy for forming voluntary associations as the thing that made America unique. We inherit a distinctive national tradition, and it’s what makes our country great.

From American Philanthropic to AmPhil

With that, I’m thrilled to announce that American Philanthropic is becoming AmPhil. That’s what our clients have been calling us for years (and what we’ve been calling ourselves internally). We think the simpler name will help us better connect with the people we serve.

With this brand refresh comes a new name, along with a new logo, new colors, and new look—but the same commitment to strengthening civil society. More importantly, the process of thinking about who we are and who we want to be has helped us distill our core values and core principles. I think this rebrand will help us convey those more compellingly and transparently going forward.

If we can connect with organizations that share those values and principles, we can make our country and our communities better places.

To those in the “third space,” thank you for being part of the AmPhil community. Thank you for your effort, your hard work, your dedication, and your commitment. Above all, thank you for allowing AmPhil to be a part of what you do. We are honored to be a small part of what you are doing to strengthen civil society.

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