Celebrating Orr Group’s 30th Anniversary through our Core Values
Reflecting on the past 30 years of growth and looking forward to the future.
A message from our Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Stephen K. Orr.
This year marks an incredible milestone for Orr Group. 30 years ago, I pivoted from my decades-long Wall Street career and embarked on a journey with my wife and partner, Carol, to transform the business of philanthropy. Since its beginnings in 1991, Orr Group has grown exponentially, becoming a leader in the nonprofit sector and trusted partner to more than 1,000 nonprofit organizations nationwide. As I reflect on Orr Group’s evolution over the past three decades, I credit our achievements and progress to our core values which have supported our vision, shaped our culture and inspired our team to drive forward our mission to improve the world we live in.
Orr Group is in the business of philanthropy. We create collaborative, embedded and lasting partnerships with our nonprofit partners, and work hard to ensure their success. We invest in our team – our strongest asset – to help them develop and thrive both professionally and personally. Our unwavering commitment to excellence and integrity makes us a trusted, valuable resource to the organizations we serve. We take a personalized and innovative approach to our work, allowing us to remain nimble and creative to meet the unique needs of each nonprofit client. We value open, honest and frequent communication and honor our word to each other and to our partners. Teamwork and accountability are at the forefront of how we work collaboratively to provide our partners with only the best service and solutions. The firm was built from an entrepreneurial spirit, and our team members keep that same spirit alive today as we remain flexible and adaptable in the face of every challenge or opportunity that comes our way. The tenets of diversity, equity, and inclusion are woven into every facet of Orr Group – in the way we celebrate our differences, affirm our similarities, and treat each teammate and partner with dignity and respect.
Our core values have been critical to our success over the past 30 years, and they will continue to guide us as we grow, learn, and evolve over the next 30 years. In celebration of this milestone, myself, Carol, and the firm’s senior leadership have taken time to reflect on these core values and their influence and impact that will be shared through a video series. Our hope is that our 30th Anniversary Cor(r)e Values campaign will allow you to get to know our people, their lived experience of these core values, and their vision for the future of the firm.
In our first video installment (seen above), Carol and I reflect on our core value of “Partnership”. We look forward to sharing these reflections with you.
Watch the video series here:
How has Orr Group’s approach to partnership contributed to the firm’s success over the past 30 years?
Carol: “Let’s start by saying how excited we are that we’re celebrating 30 years and what a fantastic milestone. And obviously when we started the company, it was a true partnership, it was just the two of us. It was a great partnership, Steve and I split our responsibilities, we both brought something different to the table. I was doing more of production and Steve was doing obviously the fundraising for clients. And through that partnership, we just grew and started hiring more and more people.”
Steve: “So partnership essentially has been a critical part and a philosophy of this company since the beginning as you just described you and I started it together and we were surely in partnership and then as we began to hire more and more people, we’re now up to 70 or 75 folks. Partnership among us, partnership with clients, all of that is essential and just part of the philosophy that we use every day. It’s entrepreneurial, it’s team and orientation and it is designed to rely on and trust each other as we serve our clients and that has worked extremely well for the last 30 years.”
What does it mean to be an embedded partner?
Steve: “Partnership is key to the philosophy of Orr Group and that carries through surely to the client. We created a term called “embedded partnership” which to us means that we become part of the client’s team, we work seamlessly with them at all levels. And that has turned out to be a very effective and valuable approach because it helps the client succeed and it brings resources and talent to otherwise a client that obviously needs more because that’s why they’re retaining us and partnering with us.”
Carol: “It was about 10 years ago or maybe 15 that we started doing client wrap-up meetings and through those meetings, we found that our clients wanted us to take them to the future, not just give them a strategy or plan or a goal, but to walk the walk with them and take them to the finish line and meet that goal. And that’s when we really started becoming embedded with our partners. And it’s been a huge success, we don’t come in to our client, tell them what to do, give them a strategy or a strategic plan, feasibility study and walk out, we stay with them through the very end of their fundraising goals. So I think that in fact has really been for us what we call an embedded partnership.”
Steve: “So Carol, as you were saying, it’s been really a critical philosophy of the company to create this embedded relationship. And really it comes down to hiring the right people. So, when you’ve been listening to the clients and getting feedback, that informs us as to how to do better hiring work and hiring the talent that really meets that kind of need.”
How have you seen teammate and client partnerships evolve over the years?
Carol: “The biggest asset I think at Orr Group or one of them are the people. And I think hiring has been key to that. And we look for people that are, wanting to get involved with the client and, and want to work in a team environment and want to be mentored by their fellow employees, both up and down. And that has been a key to our success, is our people.”
What is most important to creating a successful and lasting partnership?
Steve: “I would say the most critical variable is honesty and trustworthiness. If they trust us to give them the right answer, we certainly truly know the business extremely well but bringing it to them in a form that they can understand and that they- it might be harsh, but they will trust that we are giving them real feedback on what they need to do, what they should be doing, what they’re not doing, those types of things.”
How has your partnership impacted the success of the firm over the past 30 years?
Steve: “Because we started 50-50 as partners, we built the business together. Each of us sort of staying in our own lane as to the value that we brought to the company. And I was saying to someone the other day, “I don’t think we’ve ever had a serious quarrel or a fight in this business”, at least on strategy issues. Maybe we may have gotten into some entanglements on tactics, but I do what I do, fundraise strategy and other things. Carol is a producer, she’s an expert in HR, all of the variables which are so critical to our business: hiring, as you said is the most important variable to be successful in a partnership.”
Carol: “I think a true partnership is, is when you have different talents, you have different expertise, and you both respect, everyone respects what the other one brings to the table and the listening and trusting the other partner is so important. And so that’s been like a marriage, I mean, it’s really, really,…”
Steve: “And remember so many years ago, we created the concept of team equity. And what that means is that each member of our team and we typically have four or five person teams, you respect the other person, you respect their workload, you respect what they know and don’t know and you look for complimentary approaches to strategy and to bringing the services to clients. And that really, really works. So I think it did begin with you and I showing that as a team, as in everything we do elsewhere, not just Orr Group, that it works. And that has infused itself I think into the company and that’s become a major tenet of the company and it exists in full strength today, 30 years later.”