Every now and then we feature content from outside contributing authors who help bring new insights into the world of nonprofits and churches. This article comes to us from Ryan Woroniecki at DonorSearch, a prospect research, screening, and analytics company that focuses on proven philanthropy.
You’ve got big goals for your nonprofit’s future. But when it comes to planning out how to actually get there, you have a few questions and roadblocks in your way. If this sounds like you, it might be time to consider hiring a fundraising consultant. After all, who better to help you raise funds to propel you towards your goals than a professional?
This may seem intimidating, especially if you’ve never used a consultant before, but it doesn’t have to be.
To help with the hiring, here’s a simple series of steps to follow when bringing on a fundraising consultant:
- Determine if your nonprofit is ready.
- Decide on the services you need.
- Do your research.
- Take the leap.
You’ll be on track to hiring the best consultant for your organization in no time!
1. Determine if your nonprofit is ready.
Not all organizations are at a stage where bringing on a fundraising consultant would be beneficial. So how do you figure out whether your nonprofit is ready?
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to evaluate whether the time is right to enlist the aid of a consultant:
- Do you have a specific project that you’re trying to accomplish?
- How much money do you hope to raise and how many donors do you expect?
- How do you envision your proposed project benefitting your nonprofit in the long run?
- Are there specific areas of your project with which you need more help?
- Do you or your staff have the skills necessary to accomplish your goals?
If you have tangible answers to these questions, your organization could benefit from bringing on a professional fundraising consultant.
Be sure to think carefully about the specifics of your proposed project — the more well-defined your project is, the easier it will be to find a consultant that can meet your needs.
Utilize the tools your nonprofit has at its disposal for help you clarify your goals.
Take a look at your nonprofit’s most recent annual report to identify project areas that require greater attention this year. Leverage your nonprofit CRM’s database of donor information to help inform where you plan to focus your fundraising efforts.
But wait! It’s important to also consider whether your nonprofit board is on board for bringing on that type of help. Since they’ll be the ones funding your project, you’ll need their approval!
The bottom line: If you have clear goals, a defined project, and board buy-in, the time is right to begin the hunt for a fundraising consultant.
2. Decide on the services you need.
You’ve figured out the goals you want to work towards and your board is behind you. Now, it’s time to figure out exactly what services your organization would benefit from the most.
Typically, fundraising consultants offer the following services:
- Fundraising solutions — Consultants can help your organization build stronger donor relationships and ultimately raise more money.
- Strategic planning — Consultants can help your organization align its goals with a plan of action through careful assessments.
- Executive search — Consultants can help your organization find the right development professional to suit your needs.
- Leadership training — Consultants can help you energize your board and develop strong leadership skills throughout your organization.
- Accounting and financial planning — Consultants can help you manage your fund accounting and plan out your budget.
Every nonprofit’s specific needs are different, and as a result, not every consultant’s services will be applicable.
For example, if your nonprofit already has a strong fundraising infrastructure in place, you may only need a consultant to help with specific tasks (such as better fund allocation or performing a wealth screening). On the other hand, your nonprofit could require more extensive fundraising solutions, such as full capital campaign management.
The bottom line: Once you figure out if you’re ready for a fundraising consultant, the first step is to decide what services are going to be of most value.
3. Do your research.
After you’ve determined the specific services you are looking for, it’s time to begin your search in earnest for the perfect fundraising consultant. So where do you start?
Approach your search for a consultant the same way you would approach any other major purchase for your organization. You wouldn’t just go out and buy a new online donation tool without careful research and planning and the same goes for signing a contract with a consultant or firm.
Your professional networks are great initial resources to turn to for advice and recommendations. Often, the best recommendations are obtained via word-of-mouth. Take advantage of the networks you’re a part of and start asking around.
Additionally, take a look at directories put forth by prominent professional or community organizations. Such listings will usually include consultants with a proven track record of success within your nonprofit’s focus.
Keep a few key considerations in mind as you research:
- What is this consultant’s founding philosophy?
- Is this consultant local or remote?
- Does this consultant have any specialty areas (and are they applicable to your needs)?
- Does this consultant have experience working with projects or organizations like yours?
- Can this consultant provide client testimonials?
- Can this consultant provide client referrals?
Perhaps the most important consideration you should take into account when shopping around for a consultant is whether or not he or she will mesh with your organization’s culture, environment, and values. All the qualifications in the world mean nothing if the consultant doesn’t get along with your team or isn’t as passionate about your cause as you are!
Once you find a consultant you like, request to have a proposal drawn up. A proposal is a document that outlines the consultant’s process and approach to your project, as well as the logistical details regarding how these goals will be accomplished.
A good proposal should include:
- An understanding of your organization’s needs.
- Suggestions that seek to address your stated challenges.
- A projected or sample timeline.
- Estimated costs.
A final step you should take is to check your candidate’s references. This can provide you with valuable first-hand knowledge of what it is actually like to work with your prospective consultant and whether or not the consultant was able to complete projects successfully.
Here are some suggestions for good questions to ask references:
- How did the consultant manage the project?
- Did the consultant communicate clearly with the members of your team?
- Did the consultant meet your deadlines?
- Did the consultant stay within your budget?
- Would you recommend this consultant?
The bottom line: Leverage professional networks and connections to find consultant recommendations. Remember to keep your organization’s needs in mind as you research, and once you find a good fit, request a proposal and check references.
4. Take the leap.
If everything checks out and you feel like you’ve found a good fit, go for it!
Review your consultant’s proposal and make any tweaks that you feel are necessary. For example, you may wish to negotiate compensation, or work out a different project timeline. Making changes such as these are a normal part of the hiring process.
Then, work together to create a contract that will satisfy you both. The idea here is to craft a detailed working agreement that meets your expectations and excites your team.
Make sure your contract includes:
- Clearly stated goals and objectives.
- The project’s time frame.
- A division of responsibilities and clearly outlined expectations.
- A detailed description of services the consultant will provide.
- Your consultant’s cost and how they will be paid.
- How success will be measured.
Once you’ve both signed, you’re free to begin working together in earnest!
As you continue your business relationship, be sure to involve your consultant in all major decisions and prioritize consistent communication. Schedule regular check-ins and respond to all correspondence in a timely manner. The better you communicate, the more likely your project will succeed!
As a final note, it’s crucial that you listen to your consultant’s advice, even if you don’t agree with it. You both are working towards the success of your organization. Take your consultant’s opinions and expertise into consideration when making decisions — after all, that’s why you hired him or her in the first place!
The bottom line: Once you’ve found someone that feels right, design a comprehensive contract that you both agree on and get to work!
There you have it! Following these 4 simple steps should ensure that your hunt for the perfect fundraising consultant proves fruitful. Good luck!