So you're hiring a fundraising consultant.
First of all, congratulations! You're about to take a big step in moving your organization's fundraising program ahead. Fundraising consultants can guide you through a variety of projects, from strategic planning to campaign counsel and all the analytics and metrics in between. With the help of a fundraising consultant, your organization can raise more money more effectively, but selecting the right consultant or team of consultants to fit your organization's needs will be essential in getting the most out of the experience.
Here are four things to consider on your organization's search for a fundraising consulting firm that best fits you.
1. The Philosophy
When it comes to selecting a firm, keep in mind that different firms have different philosophies in terms of how the work is done. While some firms will send in consultants who will do the work and then leave, others will work with staff to help strengthen the fundraising program internally. Depending on what your organization is trying to accomplish, you may prefer a boots on the ground consultant who would function more as an interim staff member, or you may prefer to have a consultant who will function more as a leader to form and guide your existing staff. No philosophy is better than another; your organization's preference is paramount.
2. The Size
Based on your resources and the needs of your organization, you will need to determine the size of the firm that will work best for you. We like to recommend that organizations ask for a proposal from a large firm, a mid-size firm, and a sole practitioner in order to compare what you can get within your budget.
3. The Request for Proposal (RFP)
You're going to have to do the leg work on this one. Many times, organizations do not want to take the time to develop a Request For Proposal (RFP), but this is an important step in the process of selecting a consulting firm. Being able to articulate the scope of work, timeline, and desired deliverables will result in stronger proposals from a firm. In response to an RFP, a good firm will follow-up and ask to either meet in person or schedule a phone call to ask more questions and gain a better understanding of your organization before they write the proposal. Open communication throughout the process is important, and you should not be afraid to ask questions or have the consultant explain something you don’t understand. This is a good sign that they’ll be supportive once you hire them, too.
Checking references is also a critical step in selecting a firm and gives you the opportunity to find out about what another organization’s experience was like in working with the firm.
4. The Consultant
Keep in mind that there can be both pros and cons to each type of firm, but what it really boils down to most of the time is the actual consultant you will be working with. Do they have the type of personality that will work well with you and your staff? Do they have experience with your type of organization and the kind of project you will need their counsel on? Having a consultant or team of consultants who mesh well with your existing fundraising staff is essential. After all, they'll be serving as part of your team for an allotted amount of time!