How to Hire a Fundraising Consultant | 5 Crucial Steps
Pick the right partner to be your nonprofit’s next fundraising consultant.
Finding a Fundraising Consultant
Whether you’re launching a capital campaign, reevaluating your fundraising strategy, or looking to build capacity, a fundraising consultant should be part of your plan. Check out these important steps to follow when finding the best consultant for your nonprofit’s needs.
1. Search for the right fundraising consultant.
Your team may well know that you need a consultant to step in and help straighten out your fundraising efforts. Let’s break down some of the top services fundraising consultants offer so your team can find the right nonprofit consultant.
When searching for a fundraising consultant, your nonprofit might be interested in:
- Campaign planning/feasibility studies.
- Fundraising direction.
- Nonprofit training or education.
Once your team knows what kind of fundraising consultant services to search for, you’ll need to start looking. Luckily, there are lots of ways for your team to find a number of possible partners to choose from.
Your nonprofit can start its search by:
- Asking for recommendations from peers. Ask your peers in the nonprofit sector to find out which firms have a proven track record of success. Reach out to professionals at other nonprofits, individuals on your team with a history at other organizations, and others.
- Using a search engine to build a list. Use a search engine like Google to search for keywords like “fundraising consultant” or “nonprofit consultant”. Build a general list of prospects, and then refine the list with regional keywords, specific services, and other details.
- Referencing a fundraising consultant directory. There are many nonprofit directories that include information on top nonprofit consultants in your field. These are categorized by fundraising sector, price, reputation, and other key metrics.
Using a combination of different strategies ensures that your organization can build the best possible list of fundraising consultants when beginning your search.
2. Pick a fundraising consultant who can meet your team at its experience level.
Once you’ve compiled a list of the top fundraising consultants to choose from, it’s time to narrow your options. Identify which fundraising consultants are prepared to meet your nonprofit at its fundraising experience level.
This means that the firm has a history of working with nonprofits with a similar fundraising track record as yours. While many fundraising consultants will accept a variety of clients, it’s best to pick a partner who actually knows how to meet your team where you are.
When it comes to newer nonprofits or those with modest fundraising experience, your organization should look for a consultant who advertises that they can help build fundraising capacity. Some key capacity-building techniques are:
- Growing the fundraising goal of your annual fund.
- Building a large prospect list using prospect research resources.
- Planning mini-campaigns to help boost the success of larger fundraising projects.
Small to mid-sized nonprofits should focus heavily on maximizing the gifts you receive, building your supporter base, and expanding fundraising options. Pick a consultant experienced with:
For a more experienced nonprofit, you’ll want a consultant who values the history of your organization and has a track record of working with robust nonprofits. You should choose a fundraising consultant with:
- Proven experience working with nonprofits that have a similar fundraising capacity.
- Recommendations from nonprofits of a similar scale as yours.
- A track record of strengthening major giving programs.
- A long history serving nonprofits as a firm.
If you’re not sure which segment of the nonprofit population your organization belongs to, check out your old campaign pages, or consult your supporter data. Use the information from these sources as indicators for your own fundraising capacity, and then compare your findings with other nonprofits.
3. Choose a fundraising consultant who is the best fit for your team.
Finally, after building a list of the top fundraising consultants and refining the contenders, it’s time to pick your top choice (or choices).
At this stage, you’ll want to select your best-fit fundraising consultant as well as 3-5 backup options. Your final selections should meet at least some of the following criteria:
- Do they have experience with nonprofits in your sector? Your team should be confident that the fundraising consultant you choose understands the realities of your sector and has experience building successful campaigns for nonprofits like yours.
- Do they have experience working in your region? While your consultant doesn’t need to be based in your region or even have worked with nonprofits in your region, they should have a record of adapting to diverse regional fundraising needs.
- Do they seem like a good cultural fit? You’ll want to pick a fundraising consultant who aligns with your nonprofit’s culture. This is a subjective metric to analyze, but the entire process will go over more smoothly if your fundraising consultant fits in with your team.
Once you’ve narrowed your options, create an official list of your favorite prospects. You’ll reach out to your top pick first and then the backup options if your initial proposal falls through.
Remember: you may not realize until you’ve reached out to a consultant whether or not they’re actually a good fit for your needs.
Because of this, always remain open to reevaluating your top choices as the hiring process gets into full gear. You can always regroup before the contract is signed if you realize you need to go in a different direction.
Hiring a Fundraising Consultant
Finding a fundraising consultant is just half the battle. Now that you’ve selected your top choice (and backup options), it’s time to reach out and make your proposal. Check out these tips for finalizing the hiring process and securing your partnership.
4. Reach out to your top-choice fundraising consultant.
Once you’ve chosen your preferred fundraising consultant, your nonprofit will need to formally reach out to the firm to initiate your partnership by submitting a Request for Proposal, or RFP. An RFP is a document outlining several key topics such as your history as a nonprofit, the scope and success of your past fundraising campaigns, and the types of services you’re looking for.
Once you send your RFP, the fundraising consultant will either develop a proposal or turn your team down. If they decide against pursuing a relationship, they may offer some helpful details as to why they aren’t interested.
A consultant who accepts your RFP will create a detailed document outlining their understanding of your nonprofit’s needs and a step-by-step plan for how they’ll address them.
After receiving their formal proposal, your nonprofit will evaluate both the proposal and the fundraising consultant. This final stage will include:
- Conducting interviews. Your team should always meet in person or speak over the phone with your fundraising consultant. There’s a lot you might not be able to gauge about a firm on paper that can be crucial to the success of your partnership.
- Evaluating their presentation. Meet with the firm (or set up a video chat) where they formally present their proposal. Your team will then convene to evaluate their plan and decide if they’re the right partner with whom to move forward.
- Signing your contract. The process won’t be over until your team negotiates and signs a contract for the partnership. You’ll want to thoroughly understand their terms, agree to a timeline for their services, and be sure that they are being transparent.
While including a stranger on your organization’s team for one of the most important aspects of your work might seem like a strange proposal, hiring a fundraising consultant has worked for thousands of other nonprofits already. Bringing a new person on board will revitalize your campaign strategies and improve your results.
5. Consider Averill Fundraising Solutions to be your partner.
Averill Fundraising Solutions is a full-service fundraising consulting firm with over 75 years of experience.
If your nonprofit is looking for a true partner in fundraising, consider our team when hiring your next fundraising consultant.
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 $3,000,000,000 for nonprofits in every sector: faith-based institutions, educational organizations, healthcare nonprofits, and more.
Hiring a Capital Campaign Consultant
Are you looking to partner with a fundraising consultant for your next capital campaign?
Check out our top strategies for hiring a capital campaign consultant.
Annual Fund Consultants
There’s a lot to learn when choosing an annual fund consultant.
Check out our guide to finding the right consultant for your annual fund campaign.