Perhaps you’ve thought about hiring a fundraising consultant or advisor to help your nonprofit reach or even exceed your goals. That’s great! Fundraising consultants can be a valuable tool if your nonprofit is looking to take your fundraising strategy to the next level.
With so many different fundraising consultant firms out there, it can be difficult knowing which one will best suit your needs and help you raise even more funds.
That’s why we’ve compiled five tips to assist you in finding the right consultant for your nonprofit.
- Figure out your goals.
- Understand the consultant’s job.
- Look for a good match.
- Consider the cost.
- Request a pitch.
Tip #1: Figure out your nonprofit’s goals.
Before you can start looking for a fundraising consultant, you need to establish what you hope to achieve with their help. While raising more funds may be your overall goal, you’ll need to be as detailed as possible to find the consultant who’s right for your organization.
Professional consultants need to determine what part of fundraising you’re struggling with to figure out how they can help you the most.
When you have easy-to-understand goals, your advisor can take the best approach to help you succeed.
Start off by figuring out what areas require the most support. Perhaps you need help with conducting a feasibility study for a capital campaign or you need to identify more major donors. Either way, these are the types of things you need to tell your consultant.
From there, you can be more specific about the aspects of your nonprofit that a consultant can support.
If you’re unsure about where you need help, here a few strategies you can use to figure it out:
- Look at your fundraising analytics. Are there any giving channels that aren’t doing very well? What about fundraising campaigns, events, etc.?
- Ask yourself what skills you need to take your nonprofit to the next level. A professional can help advise you on what you should do to gain those new skills—whether that means hiring someone new or teaching your existing staff.
- Evaluate any feedback you’ve received from supporters. Look at what areas your donors are saying need improvement.
The more detailed and specific you can be about your goals and needs, the easier it will be for your advisor to arrange solutions.
The bottom line: Hit the ground running with your search by knowing exactly what you are trying to achieve. That way, you can articulate to potential experts what you need help with.
Tip #2: Understand the consultant’s job.
Before you hire a consultant, it’s important to have reasonable expectations about what a consultant can and can’t do. By understanding the consultant’s job, you can be sure that a consultant is really what your nonprofit needs.
Let’s take a look at some of the things an advisor can and cannot do.
What can a consultant do?
A fundraising consultant is someone who can:
- Train and motivate your staff in all aspects surrounding fundraising.
- Evaluate past successes and challenges.
- Create strategies and advise your nonprofit on how to implement them.
- Research your donors’ giving behaviors.
- Help you hire nonprofit professionals.
Think of your consultant as your guide to fundraising. They can provide you with the tools and resources to help you understand what steps you need to take to reach your goals and raise more funds.
What can a consultant not do?
If you’re hiring an advisor, there are some things they cannot do. You should not expect your consultant to:
- Type a quick note. Actively solicit money from individuals.
- Reach out to their personal contacts to help you raise funds.
- Guarantee success.
While consultants are there to help you raise money, they can’t fill in all the gaps in your internal operations. It’s important that you think of your consultant as a partner to your organization, not as the pillar.
The bottom line: Once you understand what to expect from your fundraising consultant, you can start looking for one that will fit your needs and help lead you to success.
Tip #3: Look for a consultant that matches your nonprofit’s needs.
Not every consultant will have the same approach. You need to find the professional that will be the perfect match for your organization. After all, a consultant is a person who will be spending time in your space, working with your staff.
If that person is easy to get along with and works well with your organization, then you’re more likely to have a positive working relationship and overall experience.
Finding the right person is about looking for someone that has experience, is passionate about your cause, and can offer you a fresh perspective on how you should handle your fundraising. With these skills, they can suggest different suggestions than the ones you might initially consider.
Let’s go over three things you should look for when you hire a consultant:
A. Prior experience
A. Prior experience
You should choose a professional who has a good track record and reputation. While consultants may not be able to ensure success, picking someone with experience handling nonprofits similar to yours will raise the chances that you’re successful.
Ask the consultants that you’re considering to provide references of nonprofits they’ve worked with in the past. You can contact those organizations to get more insights into that professional’s previous work.
Depending on your goals, you’re might be spending a lot of time with your consultant to assess your needs, fine-tune your strategy, and train your other staff members.
It’s important to pick someone that you are compatible with. When you have personalities that mesh well, you can easily brainstorm ideas, discuss challenges, and voice your concerns more comfortably.
Additionally, you’ll have less trouble accepting advice from someone you get along with.
You’re reaching out to a consultant for advice and guidance. If you ask an expert for ways to solve your problems, you want them to confidently provide you with solutions.
That way, you don’t feel uneasy following their suggestions. The more confident a consultant is, the less you have to worry about whether you’re making the right choices.
The type of access you have to your fundraising consultant will also effect your working relationship and how you contact your consultant. Ideally, you should hire a professional that is located nearby. That way, you can meet with them in person.
Additionally, you want a consultant that’s willing to come to you. When they come to your office, they get the chance to learn more about your nonprofit and tailor solutions specifically to what you need.
If you can’t find a consultant that doesn’t meet your needs nearby, you can always hire someone further away. Just make sure that they are willing to meet with you in person at least once.
The bottom line: Picking the right professional is about more than just finding the services you need. Find someone that’s truly qualified for the job and that can mesh with your nonprofit’s culture.
4. Consider how much an advisor’s services will cost.
When it comes to the cost of hiring a fundraising consultant, there are no standard guidelines. Some consultants will charge by the day or hour while others may charge by the project.
Before you pick a professional, you should be familiar with all the expenses associated with their service. For instance, in addition to the cost of the project, you may be charged for expenses, such as hotels, meals, and travel.
Compare the cost of your top consultants and consider all the factors that go into what make up the final (or estimated) price. Some professionals charge a higher price because they are more experienced.
You should assess what’s paramount to your nonprofit. Do you want someone that has years of experience advising nonprofits with similar causes? Or do you want a consultant that meshes well with your staff?
When you ask yourself these questions, you can figure out what consultant offers you what’s most important. That way, you know if paying a little more for skills and characteristics that you want is worth it.
If you are lingering over the cost of a professional, think about how a good partnership with your consultant can bring you and your organization lasting benefits.
The bottom line: As you start to consider how much a consultant will cost, go back to your goals and what’s most important to you. That way, you can feel more confident that your decision will receive a solid return on your investment.
5. Request a proposal from your top picks.
After you’ve done a little research and narrowed down your list to three or four choices, it’s time to request a pitch.
The pitch can be a formal, in-person presentation or a proposal sent to you via email. The choice is up to you! Just be sure that every consultant does the same.
This step in the hiring process is critical because it gives you a little taste of what to expect. Consultants will usually offer solutions and statistics to help back up their suggestions.
When you request a pitch, give your top choices a little time to create them. If you set a short deadline, you’re likely going to receive generalized proposals that aren’t specific to your needs. Three or four weeks is a good amount of time to give.
Once you receive the pitches, focus on what you need. Ask yourself the following questions to help you narrow down your selection to one consultant.
- Does the pitch address what we are trying to achieve?
- Is the plan unique to our nonprofit or does it feel like the guidance could apply to any organization?
- Did the consultant seem passionate and knowledgeable about their solutions?
The bottom line: The pitch can help your nonprofit make the final decision. So, take the time to go over each proposal before you make your choice.
These five tips will help you narrow down your list of potential consultants so you can find the one that’s right for your needs. Focus on what’s most important to your nonprofit and stick to those key things as you make your decision.
Now that you’ve read through all the tips, you can start your search!