Your Name: Maggie Johnson Richardson
Company Name & Industry: Jazzspace Consulting, nonprofit management consulting
Job Title: Owner & Chief Creative Strategist
Q: How did you get where you are today?
A: I came to Pittsburgh in 2002 to pursue my Master's in Arts Management at Carnegie Mellon. Since then, I've had the joy of working with and for arts and nonprofit organizations of all stripes, including Pittsburgh Opera, Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, Light of Life Rescue Mission, Urban Impact Foundation, Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, Community Technical Assistance Center and many more. When the pandemic struck a couple of years ago, I found that focusing on consulting full-time was, for me, not only more lucrative than working as an employee, but also more stable and personally fulfilling.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you? What's a current project you are working on?
A: One of the reasons I’m loving my work right now is that every day is different, and apparently, I’m easily bored, haha. My ideal day starts with a live meeting with a client or colleague on Zoom or in person, followed by a good work session “at the desk” inside Alloy 26. If I don’t have an evening event to attend, I go home and hang out with my chef hubby and three cats.
All of my current projects are super interesting, but my favorite right now is helping four small-budget, woman-led, nonprofit arts organizations increase their capacity to effectively fundraise both individually and collectively. Collaboration (or “partnership”) management is really my sweet spot, and I’m excited about the unique revenue strategies that are revealing themselves in this project.
Q: How do you get motivated when feeling unmotivated?
A: I’m pretty extroverted, but not a morning person, so I’ve learned that I need to schedule some human interaction (like a coffee or breakfast) first thing in the morning as often as possible. It wakes me up and gets me motivated to do more desk work for the rest of the day.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not in the office?
A: I love kids and I love singing, so I spend part of my week volunteering with the Urban Impact Children’s Choir. I’m also often on a Sunday morning worship team at my church, Allegheny Center Alliance (right across the street from Nova!).
Q: What 3 things do anyone starting in your industry need to know?
A: It seems there are more and more people making the transition from a traditional office job to consulting in the nonprofit sector because everyone is working remotely anyway (similar to many other industries right now). But unlike being a traditional employee, you can choose - and often design - the exact kinds of projects that amplify your specific skills, interests, and experience.
In the nonprofit sector, most consultants are people who, like me, gained most of their expertise working as managers in areas such as fundraising, marketing, administration, programs, etc. Ideally, you’ve also built a solid network of colleagues over the years, some of whom may become clients once you make the transition to consulting. At this point in our growth, recruiting clients and projects for Jazzspace is very much a networking exercise. Because a lot - if not most – of nonprofit consulting work is funded through grants from government and private foundations. It’s also important to maintain a pulse on those sectors, keeping abreast of what types of nonprofit programs are being funded and things less likely to be funded. This helps both your business development and the clients you serve.
Q: Where do you see the future of your industry?
A: While nonprofits as a whole are not going anywhere, the future of my particular niche - the arts - feels more tenuous. With arts education in schools now virtually non-existent, the development of engaged, motivated arts patrons is drying up, simply by way of attrition. On the other hand, there has been much more acceptance in recent years of the idea that who and what defines the arts patron can be much broader, culturally diverse, and participatory than what was considered the norm in previous generations. This is exciting for those of us who thrive on implementing creative ways to elevate the arts to their fullest potential in our current society.
Q: What do you want people in the coworking community to know about Alloy 26?
A: For me, the very spacious, clean, comfortable, and industrial chic atmosphere of the place is incredibly helpful to maintaining my work focus. Not to mention all of the free or super low-cost amenities like conference rooms, “phone booths”, copier/printer, mailboxes, Google-esque kitchen, and more!
The very reasonable pricing structure, in my opinion, makes Alloy 26 not only accessible but more equitable as well. There is a true diversity of people you see working here - race, age, gender, nationality, business industry - and I don’t at all feel like the proverbial unicorn as a Black woman entrepreneur in this space. I’ve met some wonderfully interesting people just grabbing hot chocolate in the kitchen!
Q: Where did the name“Jazzspace” come from?
A: I’ve studied vocal music since I was a little girl and discovered my love of jazz in college. While I never pursued a full-time career in it, I still enjoy performing from time to time, and of course, jazz is always on my playlist. Years ago, it occurred to me that the culture of jazz music - creativity, improvisation, communicating well, leading, following, and unapologetic personal expression - has amazing implications for collaborative work of all kinds. So Jazzspace Consulting is all about creating a space for jazz-like thinking with our clients, so we can help them solve problems with confidence and make great programs bigger and better.