CLASS: An Organization For Volunteers, By Volunteers
The CLASS Consulting Group (CLASS) is a unique nonprofit that aims to inspire and empower enterprising individuals in the community to become community leaders and provides them with unparalleled opportunities for professional and personal growth.
CLASS was founded by Deepali Sachdeva and Sudeep Kanjilal in 2002 with a dual-market focus of serving volunteer professionals while they serve the nonprofit organizations (NPOs) through the CLASS.
Volunteering for a cause that you are passionate about can be extremely rewarding. Almost 90+ million Americans volunteer their time, money and skill to their community every year. Yet, many will find the experience dissatisfying, unable to find a group that truly utilizes their potential. Through their personal experience, extensive research and interviews with numerous other volunteers, CLASS found that volunteers preferred positions that allowed them to utilize their skills effectively and wished to volunteer in a structured environment where they could make better use of their time.
Identifying this need, CLASS was founded with the vision to change the way people volunteer and contribute. The beginnings of CLASS were humble as it all started in 2002 at a Starbucks, when Deepali Sachdeva, Co-Founder and President of CLASS, an International Banking professional, took a sabbatical due to health reasons but soon started missing the fast pace life she had earlier.
As Sachdeva puts it "being a bit of a tiger personality, I couldn't just sit at home." Her passion and thirst for giving back to her community led Sachdeva to volunteer on boards of a couple of non-profits, and soon she found herself facing the problems that many volunteers experience.
"The more I worked with nonprofits, the more I saw a disconnect between their needs and potential resources of people like me who have professional backgrounds, expertise, and want to have more social impact. My sabbatical did not last long, as it became a full time venture for me," says Sachdeva.
CLASS was born as a response to addressing those problems. To provide an enriching experience to its volunteers, CLASS was founded on the model of a consulting firm, specifically serving NPOs by utilizing by corporate professionals as volunteers. The organization acts as a bridge between volunteers and NPOs in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Remembering the first days of founding CLASS Deepali recalls, "I used to be in one-on-one meetings with volunteers from 9 in the morning until 6 in the evening." The toughest part, she says "was selling the idea." "People would say, 'Why will somebody who can probably charge $200 an hour in the corporate world want to work for you for free?'"
But today CLASS brings together volunteers from all walks of life who contribute to its service areas: Finance, HR, Marketing, and Client Relations.
What keeps CLASS volunteers motivated is the meaningful work they engage in. The philosophy has always been that volunteers need to get something in return, whether it is channeling their passion to work with their community or some kind of professional return. And CLASS provides them that learning ground.
As a hundred percent volunteer-run organization, CLASS has its challenges. Sometimes there might be a long list of projects in the pipeline and not enough volunteer consultants, while at other times there might be lots of consultants but no projects for them.
Yet, staying true to its goals of harnessing the full potential of its volunteers, the organization places them in its internal practice development effort, in case of the second scenario. "We can always use help with marketing, client relations, or consultant training and development," says Sachdeva.
The organization depends on its management team of volunteer staff members who keep the organization focused. One of the ways that CLASS measures its success is by seeing its volunteers learn or change careers. On the other side, CLASS also frequently seeks inputs from the NPOs it helps to measure the success of its programs and services.
The approach when serving the NPOs is holistic: go to the nonprofit with a blank slate, hear them out about whatever problems they are struggling with, and focus on the end goal and the starting point to get there. As a consulting organization, CLASS understands the needs of the nonprofits it is serving and tailors its solutions accordingly.
As CLASS continues to serve its community, there are many proud moments to rejoice in, including those of stirring NPOs back to the path of success from a point when they were ready to pack up. And the success of it all lies in the dedication of its volunteer community.
About The CLASS Consulting Group
The CLASS Consulting Group is a trusted advisor to the board of directors and senior leadership of nonprofits. It is a boutique management consulting firm headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area that provides consulting services to senior management and the board of directors of nonprofit organizations and offers community leadership opportunities to professionals.
Interested in finding more about our services for nonprofit organizations? Simply request a meeting and we’ll get in touch to tell you all about this opportunity and how our volunteer-run teams are helping nonprofits make the bay area a better place; one community at a time.
Want to make an impact in your community? Check out volunteer opportunities here.