About Us


Our philosophy and approach

We take pride in helping our clients think big. We work hard not to be constrained or detracted by current realities. The joy of thinking big with a learning mindset sustains us and our clients through important hours of idea generation, iteration, and detailed planning to find the best possible path forward. But when the big thinking is done, we are equally focused on the critical details of implementation. During this phase, clients find us cheerful, pro-active and dedicated to ongoing, clear and authentic communication. 

Andrew Smiles, Founder

Andrew Smiles is the founder of StepChange Partners, a strategy firm dedicated to helping passionate people with big ideas to change the world. Andrew works with philanthropists and social entrepreneurs to develop new avenues for social impact through facilitated program design.  Andrew served nine years as a Program Officer and Portfolio Manager with the US Program team at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. There he focused on developing networks of teachers and agencies providing next generation tools for K-12 educators. Previously, as Program Officer Andrew directed investments in small school designs and school-district change management strategies.  Before Gates, Andrew served as Chief Strategy Officer at VolunteerMatch.org where he was a founding team member and helped grow VolunteerMatch from start-up to sustainable non-profit enterprise serving more than 100,000 nonprofits. A former high-school teacher and youth development leader, Andrew is a proud Denver Kids mentor. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Brown University and his Master’s in Public Policy from the Goldman School at University of California, Berkeley. He lives in Denver,  Colo. where his three children attend Denver Public Schools. 


J. Michael Smiles, Managing Partner

Mike Smiles brings to clients of StepChange Partners an extensive range of non-profit advancement experience to leverage philanthropic impact through board development and training, feasibility studies, development business planning, and non-profit programmatic growth strategies.  Throughout his career, Mike has designed and managed new development programs and expansion plans involving go-to-market solutions for social causes, education programs, cultural arts, and colleges.  His communications work serving non-profit leaders and boards creates successful narratives, case statements, position papers, video messaging, and peer-to-peer strategies for exponential awareness, funding, and impact.  

Most recently Mike has served leaders of Shelburne Museum to launch a $25 million capital campaign, provided interim leadership for the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and Maritime Research Institute,  and designed AmeriCorps program partnerships to serve high-need schools through STEM education initiatives at New England Science & Sailing Foundation.  Mike has direct experience meeting multi-million challenge grants from the Fidelity Foundation, Keck Foundation, Kresge Foundation,  Brown Family Foundation, and the Alice L. Walton Foundation to build non-profit capacity.

With the leaders of the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp founded by Paul Newman, Mike served to establish a national cause-marketing partnership model and athletic training program to support the SeriousFun Children's Network of camps serving seriously ill children in the United States and abroad.

Earlier in his career Mike successfully led major gifts teams at Union College through the launch and successful completion of its $150 million Bicentennial Campaign.  As a volunteer, Mike served as President of the Board of Directors of the ISAAC Charter School in New London, Connecticut. 

Mike completed his MBA at the University of New Haven and his BA from Beloit College where he was named the inaugural recipient of the Warren Miller Blue Skies Award.


Darcy Hughes, Project Manager

Darcy Hughes brings a variety of skills to the StepChange team and client support. She supports client relations with detailed schedules for calls, tasks, and conference calls – including virtual meetings with client donor and prospects.  She also supports client relations through prospect research, database systems, and writing grant proposals. Previously, she worked as Interim Director of the Annual Fund at Shelburne Museum managing a 3,000 member and $750,000 annual campaign system led by major donors and the Board of Directors.  Darcy graduated from Trinity College with an English literature major and studio arts minor, class of 2018, where she graduated magna cum laude.