Masterson Consulting


Ruth Masterson

My Vision

My vision is a better world as a result of efficient, happy, and thriving funders and nonprofits across issue areas.

My Mission

My mission is to make it easy for funders and nonprofits to fulfill their missions by providing a range of practical, results-oriented services that are critical for success.

About Me

I’m Ruth Masterson, and with over 25 years serving the nonprofit sector, I’m delighted to offer my skills and expertise to serve your organization. I do consulting, training, and writing on a wide range of topics, and I’m a highly rated speaker and training session designer. I’m also comfortable behind the scenes helping your organization get ahead of the curve.

I’m particularly known for my legal expertise, quickly identifying the most important issues, fresh insights, practical results, and excellent recommendations. My clients often thank me for going the extra mile on their projects. My strength is in getting things done, and done well – from assessments to streamlining; and from impact to benchmarking compensation or expenses; and much more. I also bring my extensive experience and legal knowledge to get new nonprofits up and running from formation to tax exemption – both private foundations and public charities.

Bring your questions to me and we can talk it through – I’m happy to do a free consultation.

To learn more about my work, download my Introduction Sheet, read a list of speaking engagements, publications, and session design, or check out the articles in my blog. Highlights from my background are below.

  • Over a decade at a philanthropy support organization, where I was the knowledge lead in Boards & Governance, Tax & Legal, and Administration. I created a board self-assessment toolkit and grantee & applicant perception toolkit and facilitated these processes with over 45 organizations. I also managed an annual member survey and published a 70-page data report every year. I have spoken and trained on a wide range of topics, including Inspired Boards, Board Self-Assessment, Listening to Grantees, Creative Grantmaking Done Legally, and Legal Essentials.
  • Five years at a law firm as a paralegal doing nonprofit corporate and tax law, where I drafted and filed incorporation, bylaws, and IRS and state tax exemption applications for over 200 new nonprofits – about 60% were private foundations, and 40% public charities, in all issue areas.
  • Additionally, I’ve worked on staff at nonprofits, served on boards of directors, and volunteered for a wide variety of causes in a range of capacities, from typing intake interviews at a women’s crisis center to serving as a part-time executive director of an urban art space.
  • I earned my MPP from Johns Hopkins University in nonprofit management with a certificate in international development, and my Bachelors’ degree is from the Middlebury School of International Studies.

Presenting & Publications

Speaking & Training

Assessing Your Foundation’s Work
Bring Community Voices to Your Table (on transparency, peer review grantmaking and participatory grantmaking)
Data & Trends for Small Foundations
Inspired Boards
Leadership Strategies for Boards
Leadership Succession
Mirror, Mirror On the Wall: Board Self-Assessment
The Practice of Listening to Grantees
Working with Consultants

Toolkits, Data Reports, Papers & Blog Posts


Practical Board Self-Assessment: From Reflection to Action
Grantee and Applicant Perception Survey

Data Reports

Foundation Operations & Management Report, 60+ page data report, annually 2013-2018
Impact on Members Report
Longitudinal Data Book
Member Opinion Poll
Session and content evaluations
Content Services Team and Educational Programs Team dashboards

White Papers

Closing Shop: When Small Foundations Get Out of the Foundation Business
Disaster Grantmaking Strategies
Hiring Great Staff (Outlined & Edited)
How to Start a Private Foundation (Revised and Updated)
Legal Essentials (Revised and Updated)
Practical Board Self-Assessment: Improve Your Foundation’s Effectiveness
Working with Consultants

Blog posts

6 Ways to Champion Change from the Inside Out
About the IRS Auto-Revocation List
Affordable Care Act: What Foundation Employers Need to Know
Creative Grantmaking Done Legally
Data, Trends, and the Value of Written Foundation Policies
Dispelling a Self-Dealing Myth
Find Out What It’s Like on Your Grantees’ Side of the Table
Foundation Benchmarking Demystified
Foundation CEOs Experience Gender Pay Gap
Help Your Board Members (or Anyone) Be Open to New Ideas
How Well Do You Listen to Grantees?
Is Bullying Part of Your Board Meetings?
New Board Self-Assessment Tool for Small Foundations: A Caution
New Data Demonstrates the Power of Small-Staffed Foundations
Take a Fresh Look at Feedback
Women’s Salaries and the Gender Pay Gap in Philanthropy

Program & Session Design

Boards & Governance

Dynamics in the Board Room
Geographically Dispersed Boards
Hiring & Keeping Great Staff
Inspired Boards
Leadership Strategies for Boards
Leadership Succession


Assessing Your Foundation’s Work
Bring Community Voices to Your Table
(on transparency, peer review grantmaking, and participatory grantmaking)
Closing Shop
Cutting Edge Philanthropy
Data & Trends for Small Foundations
Disaster Response
The Art of Funder Collaboration
The Practice of Listening to Grantees


Creative Grantmaking Done Legally
International Grantmaking
Legal Essentials & Legal Intensive
Self-Dealing & Conflicts of Interest
Strategic Uses of Donor Advised Funds