Fundraising Consultant Hiring Guide: 5 Essential Steps

By susanlienau | December 22, 2017 | Hiring a Fundraising Consultant
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Whether you feel that your overall fundraising strategy needs some professional assistance, or you’re just looking to launch a long-term capital campaign and want external support, a fundraising consulting firm is exactly what your organization will need. However, not all fundraising consultants can offer your organization the services, skills, and expertise you need.

Especially for a long-term project, it’s crucial to make the right decision when hiring a consulting firm. To help you with your search, we’ll cover: 

  1. 1. What is a professional fundraising consultant?
  2. 2. Three top tips for hiring a fundraising consulting firm
  3. 3. Five steps for hiring a fundraising consulting firm

A fundraising consulting firm can significantly improve your fundraising and alleviate much of the burden on your staff’s shoulders. This article will help you pick the right fundraising consultant to partner with. Let’s get started!

Learn more about what a fundraising consultant is and what they do.

What is a professional fundraising consultant?

A professional fundraising consulting firm can help your organization improve the success of your fundraising efforts through a variety of services. Depending on their area of expertise and the needs of your organization, they can help you create better fundraising plans, execute long-term fundraising strategies, train your team to better serve your fundraising efforts, and more.

What does fundraising consulting firms do?

Fundraising consulting firms can help in three main categories: fundraising, strategic planning, and training your team. Not all fundraising consultants work in or are experts in every area, and will offer different services. Some fundraising services they may offer include: 

  • Fundraising assessments
  • Planning and feasibility studies
  • Capital campaign management

Fundraising consulting firms who perform strategic planning or training services may offer: 

  • Stakeholder surveys
  • Board retreats
  • Campaign planning
  • Embedded Staffing
  • Leadership Learning

When selecting a fundraising consulting firm, it’s important to find a firm that offers all of the services you need.

Use these tips to hire a fundraising consultant.

3 Top Tips for Hiring a Fundraising Consulting Firm

1.  Make regular communication a top priority

Whether you’re working face-to-face with a firm or speaking over the phone with a remote consultant, communicating clearly and frequently can help ensure the success of your relationship. In order to start off on the right foot, you should try to:

  • Establish communication expectations from the start
  • Schedule regular check-ins
  • Express your concerns early on
  • Ask clarifying questions 

Maintaining these healthy communication habits throughout the duration of your relationship will help you avoid miscommunications, stay on the same page as your consultant, and have a positive experience overall.

2.  Choose a firm that fits your nonprofit

You must choose a fundraising consultant who works well with your organization since you will be working together a lot. When you hire a consulting firm, you’re building a relationship—one that can benefit your organization long after your contract ends. That’s why you want to ensure that you pick a firm that you would want in close contact with your organization and employees.

You should choose a firm whose working style matches that of your own organization, as well as a firm that gets along well with key team members. You should look for a firm that:

  • Collaborates well.
  • Has worked with similar organizations in the past.
  • Gets along with your staff.
  • Has a similar communication style. 

While they don’t need to work exactly the same way you do, it’s important that you don’t have opposing work or communication styles. Take the time to ascertain these qualities early on so that you make the right consultant hiring decision.

3. Consider Averill Fundraising Solutions to be your partner.

Averill Fundraising Solutions is a full-service fundraising consulting firm whose leaders and partners have more than 120 years of experience with over 75 years of experience.

If your nonprofit is looking for a true partner in fundraising, consider our team when hiring your fundraising consulting firm.

We provide nonprofits like yours with fundraising counsel, strategic direction, and institutional capacity building through the following key services:

  • Campaign Direction
  • Campaign Planning
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Annual Fund Direction
  • Embedded Staffing
  • Leadership Learning
  • Executive Search

Our flexible model follows industry-leading best practices to meet your needs while maximizing your return on investment.

We’ve helped raise over $3,500,000,000 for nonprofits in every sector: faith-based institutions, educational organizations, healthcare nonprofits, and more.

If you’re ready to hire a fundraising consulting firm, reach out to Averill Fundraising Solutions today.

These five steps will help you hire a fundraising consultant firm.

Five Steps to Hire a Fundraising Consulting Firm

These are the five essential steps for hiring a fundraising consultant.

Step 1: Identify your goals and the services you need

Before beginning to search for a fundraising consulting firm, you need to identify how best a fundraising consulting firm can assist your nonprofit. Discuss what you hope to accomplish and where your nonprofit needs support.

From there, determine which nonprofit consulting services are most necessary or important for your organization. For example, your nonprofit could require extensive fundraising assistance, such as getting a full capital campaign off the ground and performing feasibility studies.

Step 2: Use your network 

One of the best ways to start your search is to ask your nonprofit’s network for recommendations. Start by asking your peers in the nonprofit sector about their experience working with fundraising consulting firms to find out which firms have a proven track record of success. Reach out to professionals at other nonprofits and individuals on your team with a history at other organizations. You can also use a fundraising consultant directory to find options.

You can also use LinkedIn as a way to see if you have mutual connections with a potential consulting firm. Your connections can give you unbiased feedback about their experience with this firm.

Step 3: Meet with your top candidates

Once you’ve gathered a list of names, completed initial research, and determined the top contenders, it’s time to meet with them. It’s important to meet your top candidates in person or to speak with them over the phone. During this stage of the hiring process, you should assess how well a consulting firm fits into your organization’s mission and culture.

Take the time to discuss their fundraising philosophy with them, in addition to asking detailed questions about their experience working with similar organizations.

Step 4: Request proposals and check references

To get a better sense of how qualified a candidate is in reality (and not just on paper), you should request proposals from the nonprofit consulting firm(s) that you’re interested in hiring. 

A proposal is a document that outlines the nonprofit consulting process, gives you their credentials, and explains their individual approach to your project, as well as the logistical details of how they will help you reach your goals.

A  good proposal should include: 

  • An understanding of your nonprofit’s needs
  • Suggestions for solutions to the challenges you identified
  • A projected or sample timeline
  • The firm’s credentials
  • Estimated costs

You can request proposals from all or none of your top choices, depending on how formal you’d like the hiring process to be. You should request a proposal only after you’ve spoken thoroughly with the nonprofit consulting firm and believe they could be a good fit. Make sure to provide them with a reasonable deadline and any specific information that you’d like them to include in the proposal.

It’s also a good idea to ensure you receive quality references from your candidates so that you get a real sense of what it’s like to work with them. Some qualities to look for in reference calls include:

  • Ability to establish a rapport and earn the confidence of their client
  • Experience with similar projects
  • Good collaboration and listening skills 
  • Excellent organization and responsiveness

Getting a proposal and references from your top candidate(s) will help you make sure that they really are as qualified as they say they are. It will also help you further understand their personality and work style so that you can determine if they fit into your organization’s culture.

Step 5: Sign a contract

After you’ve chosen a nonprofit consulting firm, you should have a conversation to determine any necessary changes to their initial proposal. Once you’ve ironed out the details, sign a contract to make your partnership official. Your contract should clearly outline all of the following details:

  • Time frame. This will determine how long the project will take. A time frame can be as short as a few days or several years for a more long-term project, such as a capital campaign.
  • Costs. Your contract should clearly state how your nonprofit consulting firm will be paid and at what rate. Usually, a fundraising consultant firm is either paid a flat fee, a retainer fee, or an hourly fee.
  • Responsibilities. Both the firm and your nonprofit should have clearly outlined responsibilities for the duration of your partnership. It’s important to understand how your nonprofit will support your consultant with your internal operations and what you will be relying on the fundraising consultant to provide. 
  • Specific services. What services will your nonprofit consultant provide? If you are only requesting specific services or getting an additional service outside of their typical offerings, it’s important to identify that here.
  • Goal and objectives. Your contract should be purposeful, stating the goals of this partnership. When your goals are clearly outlined in writing it will be easier to keep them in mind as you move forward. 
  • How you’ll measure success. Measures of success will vary depending on your project but it’s important to identify how you define success. Whether this is the completion of a particular project or a measurable improvement to a process or of a fundraising effort. 

The more detailed and specific your contract is, the less room there is for misunderstandings or unmet expectations. It’s in your best interest to make sure you and your new fundraising consultant are fully on the same page about the expectations and goals of your partnership.

As you move forward with your fundraising consultant firm search, keep these steps and our top tips in mind to help you make the best choice for your organization.

Additional Resources

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