Smarter Learning Group is a national consulting firm that specializes in helping nonprofit organizations and foundations improve learning opportunities for low-income children in the United States. We are a mission-driven organization that strives to:

  • make our communities better places for children
  • work with organizations and people we respect and admire
  • learn something new from every one of our clients
  • provide quality service at a fair price


Our team has significant leadership experience in the public, non-profit, and the private sectors.

Ron Fairchild
President & CEO

Ron Fairchild is President and CEO of the Smarter Learning Group. Prior to launching the firm in 2011, Ron served as the founding CEO of the National Summer Learning Association and the executive director of its predecessor organization, the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University from 2002 to 2010. He has extensive experience in fundraising, program management, growth strategy, board development, campaign leadership, and communications. His earlier positions include serving as the director of education programs for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and as an education associate with the Public Education Network. He is also a former public school teacher who holds a B.A. and master’s degree from Vanderbilt University.

Bob Saffold
Vice President

Bob Saffold is Vice President of the Smarter Learning Group. Prior to joining the firm, he served as chief operating officer of National Summer Learning Association in Baltimore, MD. Bob has extensive experience in nonprofit and public sector leadership, including program development and implementation, budgeting, operational planning and management, resource development, and strategic planning. Bob has served as a classroom teacher, school district administrator, and CEO of a local education foundation. He has a B.A. from Wofford College, a master’s degree in education from the University of South Carolina, and a master’s degree in policy development and program evaluation from Vanderbilt University.

Rachel Fairchild
Chief Financial Officer

Rachel Fairchild is Chief Financial Officer of the Smarter Learning Group. Her professional experience includes retirement plan administration at T. Rowe Price in Owings Mills, MD and public speaking with Bayer HealthCare. Rachel has served on a number of non-profit boards and has held various volunteer positions. She has a B.S. from Lipscomb University.

Jenny Atkinson
Senior Consultant

Jenny Atkinson is a senior consultant with the Smarter Learning Group.  Jenny Atkinson has worked with Boys & Girls Clubs for over twenty years, serving as the executive director of a Boys & Girls Club in Boston, creating education and art programs on a national level, training and advising Club staff around the country and working directly with children and teens.  Jenny has served on advisory committees for PBS shows including Design Squad and The Secret Life of the Brain. She has been a jurist for The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, Coming Up Taller Awards.  She has taught college courses on child growth and development, human development and sociology. Jenny holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Susanne R. Bell
Senior Consultant

Susanne Sparks is a senior consultant with the Smarter Learning Group.  Prior to joining the firm, she was on staff at First Book, a unique social entrepreneurship nonprofit where she led relationships with a number of notable national nonprofits.  In her role as engagement manager, she developed partnerships with organizations like the American Federation of Teachers, Reading is Fundamental, and Teach for America that resulted in providing thousands of new books to low-income children.  In addition to her experience in education policy, Sparks worked on Capitol Hill and for the advocacy division of a medical specialty society. She has a B.A. from Carson-Newman College and a master’s in public policy from Johns Hopkins University.