Eric D. Wilkerson, with the October launch of Wilkerson + Company (WICO), of which he is a founder/principal, is shifting his professional focus from growing one nonprofit organization to advancing the work of multiple organizations across a variety of sectors.
His years working at Center on Halsted
, Chicago House and elsewhere helped prepare him for this major career move. “My years of work in development and strategic leadership at mission-critical nonprofits built a solid foundation of understanding of what works and, importantly, what does not, as organizations seek to expand their reach and impact,” he said. “With so many nonprofits serving so many in need, I decided that now is the time to launch my consulting business. Paying it forward is an important part of my life and now I'm able to help more organizations that are making a difference each day.”
His immediate goals include connecting with nonprofits that are poised for significant growth and opportunities, and to guide them in taking this next big step. Plus, he will make time to listen, thus he can understand challenges and opportunities that nonprofits are experiencing.
“I don't want to operate a consulting business that imposes solutions; that does not work. Collaboration and a full understanding of the landscape is what moves the needle,” he said.
Long-term, the 36-year-old Wilkerson is focused: “To successfully advance the work of many nonprofits.”
He will equip them with the tools needed to secure the resources required to strengthen programs that will change lives. “I can't think of a more rewarding way to focus my career,” he said. “I know what it feels like to see someone's life changed by an opportunity I helped make happen and now I have a chance to support more organizations, support more people.”
Wilkerson, at age 19, earned his real estate license in Arkansas, where he was in college.
He launched his full-time real estate business in 2007 in Little Rock.
“During my time in real estate, I learned how to listen with intention. This skill influenced my time in fundraising and polished my skills in networking and I am confident that this will influence how I operate WICO,” he said. “When I moved to Chicago, I knew I wanted to dive into the nonprofit world and my first official fundraising job was Individual Giving Officer at Center on Halsted. Here, I learned how to engage with leadership, staff, and funders.”
After the Center on Halsted, Wilkerson landed as the Director of Advancement at Equality Illinois
, the state's LGBTQ civil-rights group, where he learned how to run a department, engage more deeply with a Board, and set short-term and long-term goals.
He then worked at the Shedd Aquarium and then at Chicago House.
“All 15+ years of my experience in sales and fundraising have prepared me for this next step, and for how I will operate WICO and develop its culture,” Wilkerson said.
WICO is driven to support the LGBTQ+ communities.
“Historically marginalized communities, such as LGBTQ+ communities, have had to fight for their human rights, their equal access, and, their existence. As a gay man, I'm here for the fight and along for the journey, and always will prioritize the needs of nonprofits that exist to serve LGBTQ+ individuals and families.
“Along with this prioritization, I am committed to working with contractors who are female, BIPOC, or LGBTQ. For example, my professional advisors for WICO are all from historically marginalized communities. It is important to not just say you support, but actually demonstrate support.”
WICO supports nonprofits in three key areas:Funding Strategy:
“Every organization is working towards a mission that supports a greater vision and an area of opportunity for many institutions is to align a fundraising plan with their mission and vision. WICO will build this plan.”Strategic Plan:
“Every organization needs a dynamic, concrete plan that will advance their mission and vision over 1, 3, and 5+ years. WICO will build this plan and help the organizations talk about it in terms that resonate across key stakeholders and funders. I believe this is an often-overlooked step in growing an organization. The reality is, it needs to be the north star that everyone in the organization anchors to, and holds each other accountable to, in even the most routine decisions. It helps the organization prioritize, allocate resources properly and avoid distractions as they grow.”Board Engagement:
“What I am learning from Board Chairs and CEOs is that there is a deep desire to create focused efforts and strong engagement from boards. Knowing that every board is unique, but dedicated, WICO will build a plan that brings unity and engagement to the work of a board. The Board is a critical asset to the organization and its leaders, bringing guidance, resources, and energy. Not tapping into the full potential of those synergies can make the difference between success and status quo.”
More about Wilkerson + Company at ericwilkerson.com