ParsonsTKO is a marketing and technology partner for mission-driven groups and a resource for anyone in the space. Check them out in this month’s #RespondentSpotlight.
In the early 2010s, Tony Kopetchny and Nate Parsons worked at a large commercial agency. Tony and Nate were struck that many organizations could not succeed despite massive investments in technology and successful implementation projects.
The reason behind their missed success was the need for technical expertise to think about the architecture and the change management and adoption expertise to help organizations re-engineer their business processes, onboard new capabilities, and change how they work.
Together, they launched ParsonsTKO, a digital transformation agency focused on addressing the success gap in the nonprofit and mission-driven world by using technical and change management expertise to make a significant impact. Despite some overlap, Tony and Nate were based on different coasts when they founded the company, with Nate in San Francisco and Tony in Washington, DC. This made ParsonsTKO a fully remote company from day one, long before most people began working from home.
Tony and Nate embraced this culture even further when they added Stefan Byrd-Krueger as a partner, who lived south of the Scottish border in England. Nate wrote, “While we love meeting people in person, and I miss coming to our clients’ office to get to know them and work with them in their space, we have developed our entire service model around remote delivery.” He continued, “We had become experts in Zoom and online communication well before the pandemic. This allowed us to share our expertise with the community as many organizations made this shift for the first time, leading us to work in many parts of the country.
Nate’s background in physics and work at the National High Magnetic Field Lab might have questioned his future as an agency co-founder, but the Dot Com Boom called him into the programming world. For ten years, he worked as a self-taught professional programmer, quickly combining his design interests and technology skills to work across UX design as well as systems design and architecture for organizations like the AP and UN.
Throughout his time in programming, he felt that he was leaving people at these organizations a lot of work to figure out how to leverage what we delivered. Motivated to find a job to contribute to the social good more than just profits, Nate designed his own position by launching ParsonsTKO.
ParsonsTKO is now a growing team of fifteen full-time staff and a network of 25 trusted partners who bring their expertise to engagements where it adds value. The agency services around 10-15 mission-driven organizations at any given time and is continuously growing.
The culture at ParsonsTKO is centered around transparency, empathy, and a focus on improving outcomes for the sector and clients. The team values collaboration and nurtures an egalitarian learning culture, with an open financial structure, salary bands, and a shared focus on research, resources, and “how-to” advice to the mission-driven community.
What makes ParsonsTKO special is its unique mix of technical expertise, change management, and empathy. They can translate complex technical questions into business choices for clients, working with a focus on “right-fit” solutions instead of the typical “best-in-class” sales pitches. This results in positive digital transformations for clients, allowing them to focus their internal expertise and capacity on advancing their mission, improving fundraising, and working better.
One of the ways they stay focused is by being extremely welcoming and open in their brainstorming and conversations. On Fridays, the team hosts an optional “Water Cooler” meeting for staff to pop in on their own time and talk about whatever is on their mind, from TV shows to lawn care. Nate said, “Many folks are surprised to hear that this super informal kind of time works and has self-sustained itself for years at PTKO, and that’s just one example of the culture of our team.”
ParsonsTKO works across departments and functional zones, bringing different departments together to understand the impact of technology on their work and how they can work better. This approach results in clients experiencing a positive digital transformation, where they can focus on their mission, improve fundraising, and perform better.
One of Nate’s favorite applications of this work over the years was to the Folger Shakespeare Library in helping them design and deploy a first-of-its-kind open-source solution for managing and sharing their collection with the public. Nate and his team not only helped with the project itself but also helped draft the grant to the Mellon Foundation, research the solution, and build it for the Library. Nate said it combined the things he loved: open-source software, interoperable industry standards, research, and actual impact.
The biggest challenges Nate and his team face today is the mile-long list of things to get done, a product of their success and work ethic. Nevertheless, he always finds time for conversations with leaders in the mission-driven space to find out what’s working for them and what isn’t, which in turn helps him better understand how we can be a good partner and where the sector needs their help. It’s even more rewarding when he speaks to a leader at an organization they’ve worked with, and they share how Nate’s work has changed their everyday lives.
“It thrills me and makes me feel like we’ve lived up to our mission/brand promise at PTKO,” Nate wrote, “when organizations are working better, and advancing their mission more, because of what we helped them with.”
Nate has been a partner of Prosal for several months as one of Prosal’s top agency partners. Even though they haven’t won work directly yet, his successes have been the conversations with organizations and the people he’s welcomed into his network. “I’m sure we’ll find the right client matches in time,” he told us.
To learn more about Nate and the impactful work he and his team are leading at ParsonsTKO, check out their extensive case study library and website.