Six Questions to Consider in Hiring a Nonprofit Consultant
Advice from Senior Associate Kate Hearne
1. Do we need a consultant? Look at your strategic plan or annual fundraising plan. What are your goals and how do you plan to move the needle toward those goals? Will you just work longer and harder? Maybe. Or maybe some of those goals would benefit from the outside perspective, strategy, and accountability that a consultant can bring.
2. How can a consultant help? If you are meeting your fundraising and operational goals, a consultant can help you reach goals above and beyond the day-to-day responsibilities like a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program. If you’re not reaching your targets, a consultant can recommend new strategies and give an unbiased assessment of how you can strengthen your program. The benefit of a consultant is the additional support, creative thinking and extensive experience that will add value to the good work you’re already doing.
3. What do we need help with? Consultants need to know what the work will entail. Think through the specifics of your project. What are your desired outcomes? What is the scope of work? How often will you want to meet with the consultant? What are your deadlines? Where do you need the extra support that a consultant can bring? Is it manpower? Is it strategy? Is it training or research? Defining your needs will drive the type of consultant you choose and help you get proposals you can compare.
4. What do we look for in a consultant? Look for a consultant with proven experience in projects like yours. Ask for a detailed scope of work and timeline for that work. Ask for references and check them. Ask to see samples of a similar deliverable. At moss+ross, our final reports (and other deliverables) are highly customized to a particular client and considered proprietary to that client; however, many times, we can share a similar deliverable in person.
5. Which consultant is right for our organization? Fundraising is about relationships, and that same sense of relationship should be considered when choosing a consultant. As much as possible, get to know your prospective consultant during the RFP process. Select a consultant with whom you feel comfortable and one with whom you enjoy working. Any consultant can deliver plans and processes but you want one who fits your office/nonprofit culture and encourages a working relationship of trust and honest feedback.
6. Can we afford a consultant? While most nonprofits could benefit from a consultant, not all nonprofits are financially ready to bear that expense. Carefully consider what you will gain from allocating resources to a consultant. If hiring a consultant means that you will end up with a more effective fundraising program, then maybe that expense is worth it. Just be careful not to view a consultant as a magic bullet. A consultant can organize your program, prepare materials, and train volunteers, but you and your Board must be ready and willing to implement a consultant’s recommendations. By having Board and staff own the implementation for a consultant’s recommendations, the organization will be stronger both in process and engagement.