Diana Nielander founded High-Impact
Consulting in 2008 to help small businesses
and nonprofits build strong and sustainable
organizations. With two decades of
experience in business development, nonprofit
management, marketing and public relations,
strategic planning, fundraising, alliance
building, entrepreneurship and public
speaking, Diana blends her experiences in
the for-profit and nonprofit sectors to work
one-on-one with passionate business owners and nonprofit leaders.
A pioneer in social entrepreneurship, Diana is a leader in establishing
mutually beneficial profit-nonprofit partnerships.
Prior to establishing High-Impact Consulting, Diana was Executive
Director for the nonprofit National Lekotek Center, which provides
therapeutic play-based services in centers across the United States.
At National Lekotek Center, she successfully forged partnerships with
both small specialty and large big-box retailers and manufacturers
and pioneered new revenue streams essential to reducing
dependency on philanthropic dollars.
In 2007, Diana was selected as a Fellow in the prestigious
Leadership Greater Chicago program. She continues to serve her
community through a variety of efforts, including providing pro bono
services to Busy Brains Children’s Museum, Lake County Cares,
Anixter Center and the Woodland School District. She has
previously served on the board of the USA Toy Library Association,
Bright Endeavors and Or Tikvah, and is a member of the Social
Enterprise Alliance and the Association of Professional Women.
A graduate of University of Cincinnati, she has a BA in
Communication Arts and a certificate in public relations.
To gain more insight into Diana’s background,
read the backstory. >
Although community service was a strong interest of mine growing up, no guidance counselor ever mentioned that I might graduate from college and work in anything other than the corporate ranks. In fact, I didn’t even know there was an avenue in which people earned money and helped make the world a better place. And I certainly never imagined that my first college practicum would set my career in motion within what I now know as the nonprofit sector.
After a rainbow of practicum experiences, including three years of recruiting donors for a nonprofit blood center, organizing an eight-city United Way campaign for a large insurance company, and playing meaningful roles in Newspaper In Education, the Cincinnati Fine Arts Fund and Give-the-Gift of Site for the leading eye-wear retailer, I no longer thought that fundraising meant holding a can and going door-to-door, and I saw that a meaningful and challenging career path lay ahead of me in the social sector.
Upon graduation, I was lucky enough to find a job as the development assistant at the National Lekotek Center, a national nonprofit that makes play accessible for children with disabilities. Over the course of nearly two decades, I had the privilege of channeling my energy and passion to an amazing organization that changed my life just as much as it did the lives of thousands it served.
During my tenure I worked in all facets of development, public relations, business development and nonprofit management. Over time, I came to realize that fundraising will always be an essential source of revenue for nonprofit organizations, but opportunities and revenue streams also exist through collaboration with the private sector. As experts in accessible play, we saw an opportunity to gain revenue by ‘selling’ our core competencies to the toy industry. In early 1994, I hadn’t heard the term social entrepreneurship, but through a variety of successful consulting partnerships with major players, including Toys R Us, Mattel, Fisher Price, V-Tech and the two primary industry trade associations, Lekotek began to diversify its revenue sources and soon established itself as a pioneer in social entrepreneurship.
In 2005, I initiated efforts to expand our organization’s product offerings and generate a more sustainable revenue stream. With the launch of www.ableplay.org, a toy-rating system and website that assists consumers in selecting the best toys for children with special needs, we increased our revenue base while staying true to our core values and mission.
Through my business-development efforts at Lekotek, I had a chance to work with dozens of specialty retailers and manufacturers, and it became clear that there are many more similarities than differences between the nonprofit and small business worlds.
So how are they similar?
The more I realized the similarities, the more I became interested in finding a way to apply my experience to help both nonprofits and small businesses succeed. In 2008, I resigned as executive director of Lekotek, ready to move on and think about establishing my own business. Thus, the seed for my own business was planted and I was ready to grow.
- For both nonprofits and small businesses, there is rarely enough money for investment spending or to take risks on new opportunities.
The expectation is that the staff on hand need to be knowledgeable about all facets of running the business, even thought they are not trained and may not have relevant experience.
- The power of mutually beneficial partnerships and collaborations is undeniable and generates successful opportunities that would not be afforded otherwise.
- There is hardly time for researching, institutionalizing and analyzing information, so it's easy to confuse factual decision making from emotional decision making.
- Because there is little time for planning and strategizing, action is often taken from a position of reactivity, rather than pro-activity.
Contact Diana >
“Diana and I worked
on the web-based
social enterprise she
ultimately has grown
into a large revenue
generator for our
Her skills in management,
marketing and business
invaluable, and she
has a unique ability to
quickly understand an
and find strategic and
efficient suggestions and
solutions for its benefit.
It has been my pleasure
to work with her both
as a colleague, as well
as a consultant.”
Director of Business Development
national lekotek center