As one of the first Chamber professionals to start his own consulting firm, Howard Benson is largely responsible for creating the specialized field of fundraising for chambers of commerce and economic development organizations. Howard hired and trained dozens of people now scattered across several firms in the industry and many of his concepts, strategies, and methods are widely regarded as best practices.
Before founding NCDS in 1977, Howard served for five years as a senior executive of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce where he directed the funding of the groundbreaking Forward Atlanta economic development program. Prior to that he was a staff executive of the Jacksonville, Florida Chamber in a similar capacity. He began his community development career in 1967 as executive director of a chamber of commerce in a northeast Florida community of 18,000 population. He is a graduate of Brevard College and the University of Georgia Institute for Organization Management and the Academy of Organization Management at Notre Dame.
Always an innovator in the field of community development fundraising, Howard established the Economic Strategy Center as an affiliate of NCDS in 1993 to provide certifiable return on investment data to donor/investors in NCDS clients’ campaigns. He raised the bar in solicitation strategy by making MaxFund® the firm’s standard campaign strategy, wherein NCDS professionals take the lead in prospect solicitations. Another of the firm’s pioneering hallmarks is leading clients to adopt the “strategic initiative” methodology as a platform for successful funding campaigns.
Howard recently stepped down from full-time management of the firm’s operations but remains engaged with select clients and special projects. A longtime avid horseman and fox hunter, he and his wife Sheila live in Atlanta.
“It was my good fortune to lead the firm during our work in hundreds of communities since we began in the late ‘70’s. The invaluable lessons we’ve learned along the way are imbedded in the NCDS culture and its methodologies. Seeing NCDS continuing to bring that experience and hard-earned wisdom, along with fresh ideas to more communities and organizations is truly gratifying.”