Hiring a fundraising consultant, while incredibly important, can be tricky. With so many firms and so many service packages, how can you tell which is the right choice for your nonprofit?

Well, don’t worry! We’ve broken the process down to 5 simple steps to help you figure it all out:

  1. Understand your organization
  2. Read up on consulting services
  3. Use your network
  4. Be thorough throughout the hiring process
  5. Communicate and sign

Read on to see our tips for hiring a fundraising consultant!


1. Understand your organization

When it comes to hiring a fundraising consultant, you’ll first need to understand your organization inside and out. And by that, we mean you’ll need to understand your nonprofit’s needs and goals to determine whether or not your organization is ready to bring on a consultant.

For this step, you’ll most likely want to refer to reports and analytics from your nonprofit CRM software to see where you performed well and where you struggled. This will help you gauge what you need help with.

Looking at your previous reports can also help you determine what your attainable goals can be!

There are two important steps to consider as you’re preparing your nonprofit for a fundraising consultant:

A. Outline your project.

Determining your goals will come hand in hand with outlining your project. You’ll need to estimate how much your nonprofit is planning to raise, who you’re planning on asking for donations, and what fundraising tactics you’ll implement.

In other words, you’ll need to make a rough plan so you can explain what you think your nonprofit needs to your potential consultants.

A nonprofit consulting firm can assess your goals against your current fundraising practices to help you maximize your strengths and improve upon your weaknesses. Basically, they’ll take your estimates, work with them and then solidify them, forming a solid plan.

And when it comes to who to ask for donations, prospect research and wealth screenings will do wonders for your nonprofit.

Some consultants specialize in prospect research and wealth screenings, which means they can help you scope out potential donors and current donors and determine their likelihood of giving to your organization.

B. Get your board on board.

You’ll need your board’s approval to hire a fundraising consultant, so it’s important to converse with them. You should all be on the same page with the same goals and needs in mind, which is why it’s important to determine those right off the bat.

However, if communication with your board isn’t perfect, don’t worry. Many consultants focus specifically on helping nonprofits and their boards learn to work effectively together.

Here, a consultant can focus on providing your nonprofit with a reported evaluation of your board’s work. This data can help you determine your board’s strengths and where improvements should be made.

A consultant can also help you implement new strategies to aid the communication between you and your board. This way everyone’s on the same page!

The takeaway: You’ll need to understand your project plan and get your board’s approval to succeed, both of which a fundraising consultant can offer assistance with.


2. Read up on consulting services

After determining your needs and goals, outlining your project, and talking to your board, you’ll need to do your research. To get started, you can check out lists like Double the Donation’s 12 Top Fundraising Consultants.

Let’s take a more in-depth look:

Compare packages.

Most consultants will have preset packages you can choose from. You may not be able to hand-pick the services you want, so you should compare consultants and find the firm that offers a bundle with the most relevant services for your nonprofit.

Consulting firms can help your nonprofit with a variety of things like feasibility studies and email marketing. Some other common services include:

  • Fundraising solutions
  • Strategic planning
  • Communications
  • Board and staff training

Since you’ll probably be doing most of your research online, you’ll also want to look into where the consulting firm is located, as it can play a huge role in choosing a consultant.

If your nonprofit is looking to bring on a consultant who can be in-house, work in your office, and be at your events, then a local firm will satisfy your needs. However, if your nonprofit’s consultant can do everything from afar, meaning they don’t need to be physically involved, then a remote firm is a viable option.

Plus, it’s easy to get lost online, and you don’t want to fall in love with a firm in Santa Monica, California, if you need a firm local to Cincinnati, Ohio!

Client testimonials are also particularly relevant when it comes to researching firms online, because these insights can help you decide if the firm can be a good fit for your nonprofit.

By researching a firm’s former clients, you’ll understand the type of organizations they usually represent and if any of these nonprofits are similar to yours. In other words, you’ll be able to determine if this firm is experienced in your specific niche and can help you reach your goals.

Client testimonials will prove the quality of the professional services the consulting firm offers and the level of collaboration that’s typically involved. If previous clients were pleased with the firm’s work, there’s a good chance you could be, too!

The takeaway: You’ll need to do your research on consulting firms before you can choose one. You’ll want to pay attention to service packages and which will fit your needs best.


3. Use your network

We know there are a ton of firms and every one offers different packages, so it’s easy to be overwhelmed, but don’t forget that you can use the help and knowledge of your network.

There are plenty of resources for you:

Ask peers for referrals.

Your peers from other nonprofit organizations probably have some experience with hiring a consultant (or they know someone who does), so don’t hesitate to reach out.

Look for nonprofits that have similar supporter bases and goals. For example, if your nonprofit is locally-focused and has a staff of ten, you may not want to ask a national nonprofit with 100+ employees for a recommendation.

Look to community-based organizations and their directories.

Community organizations can be a good starting point when searching for a local consultant, but remember that focusing in on local firms will narrow your search quickly and remote consultants may work just as well for your purposes.

The takeaway: Don’t stress when it comes to finding consulting firms to look into. You can ask around your community and use your network’s experiences to find the perfect consultant!


4. Be thorough throughout the hiring process

After you’ve used your network to recruit consultant candidates, you’ll want to be thorough in the hiring process. Meeting with your top candidates will probably be the easiest way to get a feel for their personalities and decide if their values align with your nonprofit’s.

Keep the following tips in mind as you interview candidates:

Pick a consultant who fits.

When interviewing potential consultants, keep the following points in mind and feel free to ask them:

  • Do they understand your goals?
  • Can they recognize the potential success of your project?
  • Where do they think your nonprofit needs support?
  • Do they have experience with similar nonprofits?
  • What are their speciality services and do they match with what your nonprofit needs?
  • Will they be able to collaborate easily with your team and board?

Selecting a consultant who understands your project’s efforts and your cause is crucial for your partnership’s success.

Ask for a proposal.

After you’ve met or spoken with the potential consultant, you can ask them for a proposal concerning any specific details you’d like clarified. Here’s a chance for you to ask for their their understanding of your nonprofit’s goals, needs and values, estimated expenses, suggested solutions to current problems and a hypothetical timeline. You’ll want to give them a set deadline to meet.

Check their references.

Before you hire them, you’ll need to know if they have positive work ethics, which you’ll be able to prove through their previous work history.

When speaking with their references, you’ll want to discuss how your candidate managed their project and collaborated with a team. You can cover if the candidate kept a budget and deadline in mind while working.

The takeaway: Feel free to ask your candidate for a proposal to better understand how they view your organization. And don’t forget, a consultant’s references will be able to tell you what working with the individual is really like and if they really recommend the firm.


5. Communicate and sign

When you’ve decided on a consultant, your candidate’s proposal can act as a rough draft of their contract.

But you’ll need to discuss the details first:

Establish your expected communication and timeline.

When it comes to communication, you’ll need to establish your expectations and schedule biweekly or weekly meetings. Determine what your consultant should come to you to discuss and what they can make their own judgments on.

Be sure to regularly voice your concerns and ask questions, and invite your consultant to do the same.

Finalize your timeline so both parties know how long the project will take and how much of your consultant’s time will be dedicated to this account.

Determine how your consultant will be paid.

You’ll also need to discuss the costs of the contract. How will your nonprofit pay your consultant? You may be paying a flat fee, a retainer, or an hourly rate.

Make sure both you and your consultant are comfortable with the final decision or your partnership will fall short of its potential.

Finalize your goals and responsibilities.

Determine your nonprofit’s goals and responsibilities, along with your consultant’s responsibilities. It’s important to know how your consultant will collaborate with your nonprofit’s internal operations.

You’ll also want to discuss tracking your project’s success and decide on which metrics to pay attention to.

The takeaway: Communication is key for a successful partnership with your consultant so you’ll need to be upfront and direct when establishing levels of communication and pay, as well as the goals both you and your consultant are responsible for.

The relationship your nonprofit has with your consultant will rely heavily on open communication, so make sure both you and your consultant understand your project’s needs and goals from the beginning.

Remember: a consultant is the missing link. You’re hiring a consultant for advice and help, which won’t be effective unless you share the reins. Trust that your consultant knows what they’re doing but don’t forget to take an active role in your fundraising, too.

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