An Impactful CEO Who’s “Found Her People” at the Satell Institute


Maggy Wilkinson, founder of marketing firm Athena Global Advisors, has built an impressive roster of national clients. But the organization’s real power lies in making an impact in the community.

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Twelve years after founding Athena Global Advisors, CEO Maggy Wilkinson continues to keep two crucial strategies top of mind: making an impact in the community and growing the company.

The good news: because those two ideas complement each other so well, Wilkinson has managed to be spectacularly successful at both.

Blending strategic thinking, creative vision and hands-on execution, Athena is a Philadelphia-based marketing consultancy that’s built an expansive portfolio of national clients in media, professional sports, healthcare, technology, fashion and more.

The firm — which Wilkinson moved to Philadelphia several years ago after launching in New England — has carved out a particular niche for itself by creating initiatives that have major community impact. For the NFL, one of its buzziest clients, Athena conceived a campaign called “Huddle for 100,” which inspired a million people to volunteer in their communities. Closer to home, Athena spearheaded the City of Philadelphia’s successful bid to host the World Cup in 2026.

In this conversation, Wilkinson talks about the nimbleness required to launch a business; the importance of CSR to younger employees, and why, as a new Satell Institute member, she believes she’s “found her people.”

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I was already established in my career when I realized…
…that if I was going to start my own business and really do what I wanted to do, I was going to have to do it on my own. When I told my sisters I was leaving my job as COO of an international forensic accounting and e-discovery firm and starting a company called Athena, they thought I had gone stark raving mad. At that point I was solely responsible for two teenagers.  Thank god it all worked out.

I started Athena…
…thinking we were going to do operational consulting in a highly regulated environment. And we did some of that work.

But we had some fantastic e-discovery data professionals who were doing social listening and social monitoring for clients in a way that was unusually sophisticated. We ended up with a practice that was doing that work for some really big companies. And that sort of spawned a whole bunch of other work.

When people ask me what my strategy was…
…I say sheer desperation. I had to pay bills.

We went through a hedgehog phase where we distilled…what, actually, are we? We realized early on that we sat at the intersection of data-driven insights and creativity. Fast forward: Today we have an in-house agency, a project management team, a data analytics and reporting team, and an events team. And they all come together to run campaigns, often with a community focus and often to change brand perception.

A great example of our work…
…is the campaign we conceived and executed for the NFL when it turned 100 years old called “Huddle for 100.” That was in 2020. We got over a million people to give at least 100 minutes to causes they cared about in celebration of the NFL’s centennial season. At the end of that campaign, people had volunteered 397 million minutes – which is over 750 years of volunteer time. The economic value of the time was $168 million. It’s still the most successful community campaign in the NFL’s history. They won an ESPY Award at the end of it.

The key to our success has been…
…our employees, no question. The people who work here are passionate about what they do. And going back to Corporate Social Responsibility: People come to work here because there’s a direct line of sight to the impact our work has. That’s important to us and that’s important to them.

Many of our employees…
… are in their 20 and early 30s, and it is table stakes for them to work for organizations that care about community. Fortunately, it’s in our work. For example, we’ve had the good fortune to work on programs for Comcast and Liberty Latin America to bridge the digital divide. So the work is fun. And people feel like they can see how it’s having an impact.

When it comes to CSR at Athena…
… everybody gets two days off, in addition to their paid time off, to support community involvement. And we schedule days that people can do. Although employees can choose their own charities, many team members plan group outings to clean up local trails or participate in initiatives around food insecurity.

And then we put our money where our mouth is. We’re financially supportive of City Year Philadelphia, which dovetails really well with our values. We are also part of the PMA Corporate Partners program. In 2023, we launched an employee volunteer program called the 10 for 10 Challenge. Over six months, the Athena team volunteered a total of 780 hours.

Then we do a number of other things at a $2000 to $5000 level that support what employees want. We also do a dollar-for-dollar match for employees who want to give financially.

I was introduced to the Satell Institute…
…by Carolyn Hewson, who’s on the board of City Year. She said, “I think you would enjoy this group. They’re committed to the community, and I know how committed Athena is, so I think you would find your people.”

I looked more closely at what it was, and we certainly qualified financially. It felt like something we should do. I’m very excited about it.

I attended SI’s wonderful Nonprofit Leadership Summit in February…
…and I found it very valuable. It gave me some perspective. It was very interesting for me to see what makes the city tick.

I think there are ways to explore public-private partnerships, which are really the wave of the future in terms of solving civic challenges. As the Institute continues to grow, I would love to hear more from some of the dynamic members about what they’re doing.

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