Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

CIE News

Friday Feature: David Morrison Coaches Nonprofits from Formation to Foundation

by Nikki Kroushl on December 15, 2017

David Morrison
Jeff Janowksi/UNCW

When he completed his bachelor’s degree in English at UNCW, David Morrison wanted to become a journalist. But in the years since, he’s instead found himself helping fledgling nonprofits, and now he’s founding his own business—DF Morrison Consulting.

Morrison has been serving on boards for nonprofits since 2007. “I tend to do everything backwards,” he says. “I was asked to serve on the board for Access of Wilmington, which runs the Miracle League, when they were just getting started. I helped them with the paperwork. I saw the struggles that they were going through operationally. So I entered the MPA program thinking that I would be a staff member for a local nonprofit, or an executive director.”

David Morrison hitting home plate
Morrison hitting the home plate at a Miracle League game. Jeff Janowksi/UNCW

However, while enrolled in UNCW’s Master of Public Administration program, Morrison had the opportunity to coach a local nonprofit on its strategic plans. “I had a lot of fun with it,” he says. “There’s so many different perspectives on a board, and you really have to take a step back as a consultant and listen to everyone and get that feedback. I realized that I wanted to help other people facilitate their goals.”

In fall 2015, Morrison began interning with the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship as a nonprofit advisor for Special Pedals, Inc. Special Pedals is a bike shop employing adults with developmental disabilities, founded by then-undergraduate Leah Sherrill. After working with Special Pedals through the spring and summer of 2016, Morrison officially joined the CIE staff in a graduate student position, becoming the first Nonprofit Advisor in Residence.

David Morrison pitches with Leah Sherrill
Morrison pitching with Leah Sherrill at the 2015 Discovery Forum. Jess Bradley/UNCW

The most rewarding experience he’s had advising nonprofits with the CIE, he says, is a tossup between Going Beyond the Pink, a breast cancer awareness/education nonprofit, and Miss Wheelchair USA’s Live Boundless, which funds educational projects for people with disabilities.

“Because of their concept and the nature of the educational services that they provide, Going Beyond the Pink was a very complex situation,” Morrison says. “They were pressed for time because they had planned a fundraiser and needed that income yesterday. But we ended up pulling off their nonprofit status, fully awarded 501©3, in two months, which is unheard-of.

“My other highlight would be Miss Wheelchair USA, which was my first experience handling a nonprofit foundation. There was a lot of back and forth regarding contracts and other legal constraints. It was really rewarding for me to see that one come through, finally. They still have a long road ahead of them—I don’t ever feel ‘done’ with any nonprofits.”

David Morrison with Madison Delp
Morrison meeting with Miss Wheelchair USA, Madeline Delp, in August 2017.

During his time working at the CIE, Morrison built its nonprofit policy from scratch and has worked one-on-one with over twenty different nonprofits. In addition to individual advising, he has cohosted multiple sold-out “Grant Writing for Nonprofits” workshops, presented at Cucalorus Connect, worked to develop a partnership with UNCW’s Quality Enhancement for Nonprofits (QENO), and played an integral part in the two past social-entrepreneurship Discovery Forums.

Morrison graduated with his MPA from UNCW on December 9, 2017, but jokes that the CIE “won’t be able to get rid of me that easily.” He’ll continue to work with CIE startups and nonprofits through DF Morrison Consulting, his new freelance nonprofit advising firm.

Morrison’s new business focuses specifically on young nonprofits—from those at the “napkin stage” with only an idea to organizations up to three years old. Like the CIE, his mission is to get organizations to “graduate” from needing his services. “My goal is to really get them off the ground, up and running, and then let them figure it out from there,” he says. After an initial consultation, Morrison helps nonprofits begin strategic planning, fundraising efforts, and board development.

DF Morrison Consulting will also host three nonprofit workshops through the CIE in the spring: How to Start a Nonprofit in February, Grant Writing Basics for Nonprofits in March, and Program Management for Nonprofits in April. Those workshops will be free for CIE members and $15 each for nonmembers. (It’s worth noting that nonprofit memberships are $50 per year, and members have access not only to Morrison’s spring workshops, but over 90 others that the CIE hosts each year.)

“I want to encourage people not to feel like they’re alone if they are thinking about creating a nonprofit,” Morrison says. “And not just because the paperwork is complicated and nobody wants to do that. It’s amazing to me how many of my clients have said, ‘This is so much easier when you have somebody sitting there with you going through all the steps and really making it digestible and understandable.’ There’s no reason to feel like you have to do it on your own.”

To set up a consultation with David Morrison, email him at or follow him on Facebook.

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