7 Tips to Help You Hire a Professional Fundraising Consultant

Jeff Gordy

What’s a fundraising consultant?

A fundraising consultant, sometimes called professional fundraisers, is basically an expert for hire. They’re seasoned pros, field marshalls of the nonprofit world. They’ve usually got several years of experience under their belts running campaigns and managing donors for nonprofits. Usually, they’ll have an impressive track record to back it up. Fundraising consultants can assist you with running your fundraiser from start to finish or complete a few tasks when you need them. A consultant can be your guide when you’re unsure about how to approach your fundraising.

With so many different fundraising consultants offering services to your nonprofit, it can be difficult knowing which one to hire. But, before you can take advantage of all that a consultant has to offer, you need to hire the right one. If you need help navigating your search for the right professional fundraiser, we’ve got you covered!

We’ll discuss 7 tips that your nonprofit can use to hire a consultant.

  1. Know what you want before you search.
  2. Pick a consultant that understands fundraising software.
  3. Look for a consultant that can communicate regularly.
  4. Ask consultants for references.
  5. Choose a consultant that fits your nonprofit’s culture.
  6. Consider the cost of hiring a consultant.
  7. Request proposals before finalizing your decision.

Keep reading to learn more!

It's important to know what you want before you hire a fundraising consultant.

Tip #1: Know what you want before you search.

It’s going to be difficult to look for a consultant if you don’t know what you need. In order to start your search for a consultant, know what areas of your fundraising you need help with and what services a consultant can provide.

When you know exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to narrow down your options to search for consultants that meet those needs. You probably have a general idea of what you need help with. Perhaps you’re looking to:

  • Start a capital campaignCapital campaigns require a lot of preparation, and a consultant can help you organize your event and empower your board of directors so that you have strong leaders. Plus, consultants can assist you throughout the campaign to ensure that your goals are met.
  • Plan a fundraising event. One of the most important parts of a fundraising event is the promotion. Think about it this way: if your supporters don’t know about your event, they can’t come. With a consultant’s help, you can create a communications plan to market your fundraiser and generate interest.
  • Improve your online donations. Donors are always looking for more convenient ways to give, which means that your nonprofit needs to stay up-to-date on the latest online and mobile donation trends. A consultant can help you find online giving platforms as well as teach you how to use your new software.
  • Learn more about your donors. Put all that donor data you’ve been collecting to use! If you’re not sure how to analyze all your information, consultants can help you focus on the most important data points and implement a strategy based on their findings.
  • Conduct a feasibility study. One of the most important components of a capital campaign is the feasibility study. Think of the feasibility study as a focus group for your supporters that helps you determine if your campaign can reach its goals. Hiring a third-party professional like a consultant ensures that you get honest answers during the study.

Knowing this information will be helpful, but if you want to find the right consultant for your nonprofit, you’ll need to be more specific. Think about all the areas you need help with and create a list.

Once you have everything down, prioritize the items on your list. When you start your search, you’ll know exactly what to look for. Plus, it will help the consultant understand what you want.

The level of involvement you want your consultant to have is also important. Are you looking for a consultant that can help you plan a fundraiser from start to finish? Or are you looking for someone to fill in the gaps with the skills and resources your nonprofit doesn’t have?

Knowing how much involvement you want a consultant to have also relates to the type of consultant that you pick.

Key point: Don’t start your search without first knowing what services and level of involvement you want from your consultant. Without knowing where you need help, it will be hard to determine which consultant can serve you the best.

Understand the role of a fundraising consultant before you hire one.

Tip #2: Pick a consultant that understands fundraising software.

Whether you’re looking for help with a fundraising event or prospect research, hiring a consultant with fundraising software knowledge should be on your priority list. Understanding software means that your consultant can analyze the information from your nonprofit CRM to create a better strategy for your organization.

You probably use fundraising software on a daily basis to track your donors’ information and giving habits as well as your fundraising efforts. It only makes sense that you should hire someone who knows how to use the software as well.

A consultant who understands fundraising software can help you: 

  • Manage your fundraising events.
  • Analyze your fundraising data to help you make improvements.
  • Gain a better understanding of your nonprofit’s efforts thus far.

While it may be important to find a consultant who’s skilled in the areas that directly relate to your nonprofit’s challenges, it’s also important to work with a consultant who understands the basics of fundraising.

Additionally, if you need help finding a fundraising platform or looking for a new one, then the consultant can lead you in the right direction.

Key point: When you hire a consultant who knows fundraising software, he or she will have the experience you need to create a successful campaign.

It's important to communicate with your fundraising consultant regularly.

Tip #3: Look for a consultant that can communicate regularly.

No matter what type of assistance you need, you’ll be working with your consultant on a regular basis. Communication is an important part of your relationship with a consultant.

Not only does it help to make sure that you’re on the same page, but it also means that you can quickly address any concerns when they arise. While there are many ways you can communicate with a consultant, it’s up to you to figure out what way will work best for your nonprofit.

Meeting in person is always a good option because it gives the consultant the opportunity to get to know your nonprofit. This could help them create fundraising solutions catered your nonprofit’s specific needs. Since there won’t be as much back and forth when you communicate, this can also save you time.

With that said, hiring a local consultant might be the right choice for your organization. Aside from more opportunities to communicate, a nearby consultant can: 

  • Help you build relationships with influential people in your nonprofit’s hometown.
  • Connect with donors in person to ask questions and further develop your fundraising plan.
  • Work closely with your nonprofit’s staff to implement suggested changes.

Of course, every nonprofit is different and having a consultant work in your office won’t be the best solution for every nonprofit.

While local consultants have their benefits, so do remote consultants. If your consultant operates in a different location (i.e. you hire a consultant from Indianapolis when your nonprofit is located in Tennessee), he/she can offer a unique, outside perspective on your organization’s current fundraising methods. Additionally, you might find a remote consultant that offers exactly what you’re looking for, whereas your local options may be more limited.

Ask the consultants you’re considering these questions to get a better feel for how they communicate with clients:

  • Have you worked with remote clients before? If so, how do you interact with them? Their answer will let you know if potential consultants have worked with remote clients in the past and how successful those partnerships were.
  • Do you meet with your clients in-person during the relationship? Meeting in-person gives you and the consultant a chance to get to know each other better. Plus, it will help the consultant better understand your nonprofit and the goals you’re trying to reach.

However you decide to interact with your consultant, it’s important to establish those expectations early on.

Key point: Working with a consultant requires a lot of communication. It’s important that you can work with someone who meets your expectations on how you’ll communicate.

Ask fundraising consultants for references to get a better understanding of their experience.

Tip #4: Ask consultants for references.

The consultant that you hire should have experience and knowledge in the areas where you need assistance. This is especially important because consultants can’t guarantee success. However, they can bring their years of experience to the table and suggest strategies that have worked in the past.

When you’re looking for an experienced consultant, ask other organizations for help first. You may have connections that can refer you to a consultant that has provided them with good work in the past. Plus, asking your connections in the nonprofit industry will give you a list of consultants that have handled similar projects and nonprofits.

You can also search fundraising organization sites to get a large list of consultants and consulting firms. The options can be overwhelming. Look for the consultants that offer the services you need and then ask them to provide references.

That way, you can talk with a consultant’s past clients to see what their experience was like.

Talking to consultants’ references allows you to:

  • See what methods they use in practice.
  • Know if their past clients were happy.
  • Determine how the consultant communicates with clients.

If potential candidates aren’t willing to give you references, see if they have any case studies of their past work. With case studies, you can gain similar knowledge on a consultant’s experience and approach.

Key point: Learning more about consultants’ backgrounds will help you determine if they have the skills and experience to meet the needs on your priority list.

Find a fundraising consultant that matches your nonprofits culture.

Tip #5: Choose a consultant that matches your nonprofit’s culture.

A part of working well with your fundraising consultant is working with someone that you get along with. In other words, you want to hire a consultant that fits in with your nonprofit’s culture.

When you work with someone you get along with, you’ll feel more comfortable asking questions and expressing your concerns.

Additionally, your relationship with a consultant doesn’t have to end when your fundraiser is over. A consultant can help you with the stewardship that happens after your campaign and with your other fundraising efforts.

Not only does a good working relationship help your partnership, but it also ensures that the consultant is invested in your fundraising.

If you want to look for a consultant that’s a good fit, look for someone that:

  • Shows interest in your cause. Working with a consultant that’s invested in your cause means that the consultant can see your nonprofit from your donors’ perspectives. This will be helpful when it comes to creating a strategy.
  • Can work directly with key team members. Your consultant will be part of your nonprofit’s existing team. It’s important that all the key players are on the same page.
  • Is open to your feedback. Not every suggestion a consultant makes will be the best fit for your nonprofit, and that’s okay! Hire a consultant who will listen to your concerns and is flexible enough to make the necessary changes.

Finding a consultant that has all the services you need is only one part of finding the right person; you also need to find someone that you and the rest of your staff can work well with.

Key point: Choose a consultant that is open to your feedback and is interested in your cause. These qualities will help make sure that the consultant you choose is the perfect fit for your nonprofit.

Before you hire a consultant, know how much it's going to cost.

Tip #6: Consider the cost of hiring a consultant.

It’s important to be aware of the cost of hiring a consultant because you want to get the most return on your investment. There are no guidelines on how much a consultant can charge. So the price will vary from one consultant to the next. Therefore, it’s up to you to know all the costs associated with hiring a consultant.

Generally, a consultant will charge by the hour or through an upfront or fixed cost, like a flat fee or retainer fee. Additionally, you might have to factor in the cost of a consultant’s hotel, food, and travel expenses.

When you start to budget for a consultant, there are three things that should factor into your considerations:

  • The consultant’s level of experience: If you’re looking for a consultant with specific skills or experience then you may have to pay more.
  • The location of the consulting firm: Location could affect how much a consultant charges.
  • Your budget: If you’re looking for a consultant to help you with a fundraising campaign, then you probably have a maximum amount you want to spend to launch your fundraiser. Make sure that the cost to hire a consultant fits within your budget.

Key point: Factor the cost of hiring a consultant into your decision. Get the most return on your investment.

Request a proposal from your fundraising consultant before you make a final decision.

Tip #7: Request proposals before finalizing your decision.

Once you’ve narrowed down your options to a few fundraising consultants, it’s time to request proposals. A proposal is away for you to learn more about potential consultants and how they come up with solutions.

Additionally, you’ll get a taste for how the consultant operates. The proposal can be an in-person presentation or a document that the consultant sends out to your nonprofit.

If you want to request a proposal from your top fundraising consultant candidates, here is what you can do: 

  • Pick a deadline: You need to give your consultants time to create the proposals that are specific to your nonprofits’ needs. Three to four weeks is a good time frame to give consultants.
  • Decide how consultants will submit their proposals: Do you want the solutions presented in-person or sent to you in a document? However you decide to receive the proposal, it’s important to request the same type of proposal from every consultant.
  • Have everyone watch or read each proposal: If there are multiple people making the decision about your nonprofit, make sure that everyone is present for each proposal. That way, you all can make an informed decision.

Once you’ve received or listened too all the proposals, it’s time to make your decision! Don’t get too distracted by flashy presentations and well-designed documents. Instead, focus on the solutions that each consultant provides. Ask yourself if the consultant offered suggestions to your specific challenges. Also, how well do you feel those suggestions will work for your nonprofit?

Key Point: The proposal is the final step when it comes to hiring a fundraising consultant. Make sure that you keep things fair and ensure that each consultant has the same opportunities.

If you want to hire a fundraising consultant, these tips will help you find the right one for your nonprofit. Just remember that it’s up to you to figure out what you need for your fundraiser before you start searching.

Are you ready to begin your search? Learn more about the top fundraising consultants here.

A fundraising consultant should have a strong grasp of fundraising software. See if Neon can help you!

Showing 2 comments
  • Lloyd Bronson

    I am looking to hold a fundraiser for my child’s middle school but I do not know how to start with the process. I am glad that your article brings up looking for a consultant that will be able to get back to you on a regular basis. I will be sure to use your article as a reference when making my selection for a consultant.

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