Ben Aase and CliftonLarsonAllen: Know the Client, Serve the Mission
Ben Aase’s early career made an indelible mark on his life’s direction and influenced his drive to work alongside nonprofits and entrepreneur-types. “My entry point was K-12 education. Education reform was still a nascent field in the early 2000’s and populated by pretty ambitious entrepreneurs and business leaders. We saw the power of school reform and we were all hungry to see change in the education sector. It was my first sense of mission-alignment among a cadre of people.”
That entrepreneurial culture led him to seek out CliftonLarsonAllen, one of the top 10 accounting firms in the US, almost eight years ago. “It was clear CLA was a field-leader in capacity-building and at the front edge of philanthropy and that was exciting,” he says. Ben is a principal with CLA’s Nonprofit Group, leading the firm’s strategic, financial, and operational consulting for its 6,000 nonprofit clients.
Although CLA’s business is rooted in audit and tax services, the firm’s national reputation in nonprofit consulting provides them a unique platform to have a lot of impact. “We help our nonprofit clients identify innovative solutions for the financial and strategic management issues they face,” says Ben. “Our work is similar to the capacity building that SVP offers its investees. We like to say, ‘know the client; serve the mission."
Recently, his firm was hired by a group of Minnesota’s philanthropic and business leaders - including Target, The Minneapolis Foundation, the Minnesota Council of Foundations, and Minnesota Business Partnership - to inventory and understand the strategic intent of philanthropic education investments within Minnesota’s Twin Cities, including those made by SVP Minnesota.
Ben is helping to design and co-facilitate Scaling Impact, a pre-conference session at the SVP Conference. This opportunity brings together 60 representatives from 30 of the highest potential nonprofits in the SVP network committed to increasing their impact by scaling / replicating their programs or expanding their geographic footprint.
It’s not surprising that Ben and CliftonLarsonAllen are involved in SVP. For the past several years, Ben has served as a review board member for the Social Entrepreneurs Cup, a program jointly produced by SVP Minnesota and the Minnesota Cup, the state’s premier business plan competition that seeks out aspiring entrepreneurs and their breakthrough ideas. The Social Entrepreneurs Cup culminates at SVP Minnesota’s Engaged Philanthropy Conference, which is sponsored by CLA .