1. Determine your nonprofit’s needs and expectations
You’ll need to determine if your nonprofit workplace is ready to look for a consultant by conducting an external review to know where you need support.
You might need to do some soul-searching before you look for a consultant. To self evaluate, look at previous analytics to know where your nonprofit has fallen short before and to know what realistic expectations for your organization look like.
Once you’ve performed that internal review, you’ll want to define your project; think about strategic planning, project structure, and expenses.
Fundraising solutions and strategic planning: A consultant will help by assessing your current fundraising practices and training your organization to fund raise and plan better.
Board governance: Here, a consultant can help engage your board further by focusing on presented and potential challenges to maximize their performance. A consultant will be able to provide your nonprofit with an evaluation of your board’s work. They can also develop a work plan and help you implement new methods or practices to aim for success.
Executive search services: Many consultants can help select the right development professional for your nonprofit.
Capital campaign planning and implementation: A consultant can help with your capital campaign by determining if your nonprofit is ready to start a campaign, how much you should aim to raise, and guiding your efforts from start to finish.
Prospect research and wealth screenings: Some consultants specialize in prospect research and wealth screening, meaning they can help you analyze your potential donors’ and current donors’ likelihood of giving to your organization.
Once you have a desired plan in place, you’ll need to schedule a meeting with the board of your nonprofit to determine if hiring a consultant is a good next step.
Your board will help lead and fund your next project, so their support is critical to success.
Plus, you’ll need your board’s collaboration to help decipher what you need from the consultant. Think about your fundraising strategy, the leadership engagement from your board, and how you will fund the consultant.
The better you understand your project, the easier finding the right consultant will be.
It’s important for nonprofits to choose the right consultant because you’re aiming to form a long-term, professional relationship to promote continued success for your organization.
Key Point: You won’t be able to find the best fit for your nonprofit unless you dissect your organization’s needs and expectations.
Typically, when a consultant comes on, they’ll take a holistic approach, providing a variety of services all under the umbrella of their larger service to your organization. In other words, they’ll help you with the services that make sense and fit your goals.
For example, if you hire a consultant for capital campaign, they can help your nonprofit with everything from marketing to your kick-off event.
The sheer number of nonprofit consultants in the sector can be intimidating, so use your network, instead of going in blind, when looking to narrow the search.
Ask peers that you trust for referrals. They can give you insight from their experiences, and help you make a more educated decision. In addition to your peer referrals, you should also seek the help of professional organizations, since they will have directories with loads of information that you should be able to use.
You can also look to community-based organizations and their directories to begin searching for a local consultant. Keep in mind though, a local focus will narrow your search pretty quickly.
Key Point: Use all the resources available to you to narrow your search and make the right choice.
3. Make the most of your hiring process
Hiring a consultant and bringing someone in to work with your nonprofit’s team is a big decision. During the interview stage, when you meet with the consultant it will be the best time to get a feel for their approach and personality.
You’ll want to ask yourself the following questions when you interview them:
Do they fit well with your organization and workplace?
Do they understand where your nonprofit needs support?
Do they see the potential success of your project?
Where are they located? Are they local or remote?
What is their mission statement or founding philosophy?
What are their specialty services? Do they match what your nonprofit needs support in?
Who have they worked for before? Do they have experience with nonprofits similar to yours?
Does it seem like they collaborate well with your team?
Are they direct and straightforward when answering questions?
You should ask them for a proposal to verify their approach to your nonprofit and your cause.
When requesting a proposal, be sure to do so after you’ve spoken or met with them so that you can tell them if you’d like them to cover any specific details in the document and give them a deadline to meet. The proposal might include things you’ll address in the contract, such as:
A thorough understanding of your nonprofit’s goals, needs, and values.
Suggestions to fix posed issues.
A tentative timeline.
Check their references for historically positive work ethics and styles. Speaking with their references will give you insight into what working with this consultant is really like, giving you first-hand testimony.
When contacting their references, ask the following questions:
How did the consultant manage the project?
Did the consultant remain aware of your budget and deadlines?
How well did the consultant collaborate with your nonprofit’s team?
Do you recommend this consultant?
Take your time when deciding on a consultant.
Key Point: Asking the right consultant to join you should revolve around how well they can collaborate with your nonprofit.
4. Communicate with your consultant
During the hiring process, set specific communication expectations as it’s important to note that communication with your consultant will be crucial for your nonprofit’s success.
Whether it be in person, over the phone, via Skype, etc., being transparent will allow for the most success to come from your relationship with your consultant.
Remember the following points when it comes to engaging with your consultant:
Establish communication and collaboration expectations: You should always know what your consultant is planning for your nonprofit and vise versa.
Schedule meetings: Weekly or biweekly meetings may work best, depending on the time frame of your project and your schedules.
Voice concerns and ask questions: Remember your relationship with your consultant is just that–a relationship, collaborative in nature. Converse in order to effectively work together.
Key point: Communication is a two-way street. Conversation between your nonprofit and your consultant should flow easily.
5. Sign a contract
Once you’ve found the perfect candidate to bring on, discuss the initial contract and any discrepancies, such as:
Time frame: You need to know how long the project will take and how much time the consultant has to dedicate to your account.
Costs: Determine how your consultant will bill your nonprofit. Depending on the consultant/consulting firm, you could be paying a flat fee, a retainer, or an hourly rate. The cost and pay structure will be a big talking point during this part of the process, and both parties need to be comfortable with the final decision or else the engagement will suffer.
Responsibilities/Services: Both your nonprofit’s and your consultant’s responsibilities should be outlined in detail. It’s important to grasp how your consultant will work with your company’s internal operations. Both parties should have a clear understanding of each other’s expectations.
Goals: Make sure to write out your desired outcome. Figure out what your nonprofit’s success will look like and build from there.
Measures of success: Measuring success will vary with each project. Decide which metrics you should track. For example, if you hire a consultant to redesign your website and online strategy, you should track metrics such as site traffic, click-through rate, and increase in online donations.
After every detail is agreed upon, you can finalize and sign the contract and proceed to enjoy the benefits of your partnership as you look ahead to your next project.
Key point: Be thorough when going over your consultant’s contract and make sure every detail is understood.
While hiring a consultant for your nonprofit may seem overwhelming, there are many approaches to ease your search: know your nonprofit’s needs and expectations, compare consultants, and make the most of consultant interviews.
After finalizing your contract, remember to take your consultant’s advice.
After all, this is why you hired them. Even if you don’t agree with their suggestions every time, your relationship with your consultant should be comfortable and collaborative.
You and your consultant will be sharing the same goals when it comes to your nonprofit, so it’s important to be on the same page.