October 16, 2016

4 Things to Know When Hiring a Fundraising Consultant

Many nonprofit organizations will consider hiring a fundraising consultant at some point. Even large, well-established organizations with an experienced staff often bring in consultants for very significant campaigns.

A consultant can offer a number of valuable services, but they generally don’t do the one thing you might hope they do for you: ask your donors for money for you.

Here are four things you need to consider before contracting with a fundraising consultant:

  • Expect to spend money. You may experience a bit of “sticker shock” when you first begin to look at hiring a fundraising consultant. The fact is, all fundraising efforts will cost some money, and the larger your fundraising goal, the larger your budget needs to be. Even if your budget is low, a consultant can still be of value to you. Hiring a consultant can help you avoid costly mistakes by finding the right solutions, and by guiding you to take the right steps from the very beginning instead of having multiple false starts and stops.
  • Have a well-defined project. This applies to both the campaign as well as your fundraising consultant. Know exactly what you are fundraising for, how much funding it needs to succeed, and how the outcome will benefit you and the people you wish to help.

A well-defined scope of work is critically important. You need to know exactly what you are bringing a consultant on to do. The project, deliverables, and the timeline should be clearly spelled-out in any consulting agreement. You need to have a clear goal line in mind, and once that goal line is crossed, the services of your outside consultant are no longer needed.

  • You cannot outsource personal asks and major donor visits. If the idea of asking for money causes you great distress, a consultant can help you prepare, rehearse and coach you to become a successful fundraiser. Ultimately, if you want significant gifts, you will need to make that top prospect visit. Here is why:
  • You can answer questions about the project better and with more authority than any outside contractor. If your donor has concerns, they deserve a straight answer from someone directly involved.
  • You can speak with passion about your cause. Donors can sense if someone is just giving a well-rehearsed presentation.
  • Consulting isn’t sales, and cannot be paid on commission. There is no performance-based pay. Do not hire consultants who want to work on commission, or are asking for bonuses when fundraising goals are exceeded. A fundraising consultant must always work with your and the donor’s best interest in mind. Any performance-based reimbursement scheme would place the interests of the consultant first, and the mission of your organization second, and that is not good for you, or your donors.

About Marc Huber

Marc Huber is a fundraising professional with over seventeen years of experience, including strategic messaging, board development, annual giving, capital campaigns, and volunteer consultation and training. He's also the author of The Fundraising Co-Pilot.

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