Our Story

About The Athena Advisors:

Hear from Robin Heller, President, The Athena Advisors.

A note from the Founder and President

The Athena Advisors began in 2016 as an idea: What if organizations doing great work toward social justice had outstanding fundraising capacity and skill? What if their boards understood the role they played in advancing fundraising? What if CEOs had the confidence to ask for significant funds, fueled by the passion of their missions? What if funding were not a barrier at all for the most consequential organizations of our time?

What if I could help build the capability, capacity and coherence to help socially focused organizations achieve even more than they already were? Surely this could be my modest way of helping to repair the world.

I founded what was then Robin Heller International LLC with these aspirations in mind. I had clients almost immediately, thanks to the work I’d done at such places as the Center for Public Integrity, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Rare, and Children’s Defense Fund.

But from Day One, I knew that more could be done if I gathered talented people around me.

A constant learner, I wanted to learn from colleagues, the way we do in the best workplaces. And so I began to bring to RHI some of the best professionals in the world at what they do: Mina Devadas, my colleague in two workplaces and an amazing major donor fundraiser and fundraising operations executive; Jackie Hryncewich, my colleague who is so gifted with individual donors and stewardship; and Laetitia Pancrazi, an impatient scholar, brilliant at analysis, deeply schooled in sustainability and environmental justice, and disciplined in project management.

We were growing! Our clients benefited from a talented team of professionals living in two continents, speaking five native languages, and nearly 10 master’s and PhDs.  RHI’s clients were based in London, Brussels, New York, Washington, Seattle, and the American Midwest.

Fast forward to 2021 and our five-year milestone. I knew we were offering much more to clients than we had at the start. And we were capable of doing great things with great clients. We began a time of reflection and reinvention.

Why were amazing clients coming to us?

What value were we adding to their work?

Why were wonderful professionals coming to work with us—people who could work anywhere but enjoyed the hard, creative work we were doing and the impact we were seeing?

So we took stock of who we were at RHI. Our “new firm”, re-launched in September 2021, had a lot more focus:

The Athena Advisors is a dynamic consulting team driven by a belief in social justice and dedicated to raising the performance and capacity of our mission-driven sector to achieve it.

Why rename ourselves The Athena Advisors? Like many of us, I am influenced by the timelessness of mythology. Athena was the goddess of wisdom, as well as the goddess of war. But unlike Ares, her counterpart, she fought the good fight with strategy, not with violence. Our clients fight every day against poverty, racism, violence, environmental injustice, lack of education, misinformation and the dismantling of quality journalism, and encroachments on democracy. Athena seemed a good metaphor for fighting hard, with bold strategy, at the sides of our amazing clients.

And Athena also is known as counselor to great leaders. Many of our clients—CEOs, boards—tell us that they value our role as “Outsider in Chief.” We can say hard things in ways that people can hear. Perhaps The Athena Advisors is just the right name for our firm, for all the right reasons.