Hiring a Fundraising Consultant: A Quick Guide to Success

By susanlienau | January 11, 2023 | Hiring a Fundraising Consultant

Your nonprofit’s team works tirelessly to keep your mission moving forward, from marketing your cause and directing your fundraising campaigns to keeping your programming running smoothly. And you’re consistently trying to strengthen your approach and fine-tune your strategies.

One of the best things you can do to get a fresh take on your nonprofit’s current operations and open up the door for positive internal change is to hire a fundraising consultant. These professionals bring to the table years of experience and a wealth of nonprofit knowledge that can provide you with an outsider’s perspective on how your nonprofit can take its work to the next level.

However, it can be challenging to navigate the process of hiring a fundraising consultant, especially if you’re new to the idea. We’ve created this quick guide to help you understand everything you need to know about having a successful engagement with a consultant:

If you think your nonprofit is in a position to benefit from the counsel of an outside expert, it may be time to kickstart the process of hiring a fundraising consultant. But only by following the right hiring steps can you ensure you’re going to work with a consultant that will be a true partner for your organization. Let’s take a closer look at all the moving parts of the process so that you’re prepared to find and work with the best consultant for your organization.

Click through to learn how Averill Solutions’ fundraising consultants can help your nonprofit.

Fundraising Consultants: An Overview

Before you launch the process of hiring a fundraising consultant, you should ensure that your organization is in a position to truly benefit from a consultant’s services. Start by nailing down your understanding of what consultants do and how nonprofit-consultant engagements work.

What is a fundraising consultant?

A fundraising consultant is a nonprofit professional hired by nonprofit organizations to help them improve their fundraising efforts.

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 services do fundraising consultants offer?

Fundraising consultants can typically help nonprofits in three main areas: fundraising, strategic planning, and training internal teams. Not all consultants work in or are experts in every area, and will offer different services.

Some fundraising services they may offer include:

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

  • Stakeholder surveys
  • Board retreats
  • Campaign planning
  • Strategic planning
  • Embedded staffing
  • Leadership learning

Additionally, some consulting firms may specialize in working with different types of nonprofits. For example, some may be experts in Greek organization fundraising or faith-based fundraising.

How much does it cost to work with a fundraising consultant?

Fundraising consultant compensation styles will vary depending on the services they provide and how they provide them. Typically, you’ll pay consultants a flat or hourly fee for a short-term task or project, or keep them on retainer for long-term projects (like capital campaigns).

As you consider the consultants you may want to hire, be sure to inquire about fees upfront.

How do I know if my nonprofit needs to hire a consultant?

Here are a few questions to consider to know if your nonprofit should hire a consultant at this time:

  • Is your organization consistently falling short of its fundraising goals?
  • Do you lack the expertise and experience to tap into new and more effective fundraising strategies?
  • Do you need help evaluating the effectiveness of your current fundraising strategies and implementing new strategies?
  • Do you need assistance preparing for your feasibility study?
  • Does your fundraising team need to be strengthened?
  • Are you looking to launch a major fundraising campaign, like a capital campaign?
  • Are you searching for effective ways to acquire and retain givers?

If you answer most of these questions with “Yes!” that’s a good sign that you should move forward with the hiring process. But first, consult with your board to identify your specific needs for consulting and to determine if you have the budget that allows for working with a consultant.

5 Steps for Hiring a Fundraising Consultant

If your nonprofit is ready to work with a consultant to level up its operations, you should follow these five steps to ensure you find the right consultant to meet your needs.

This graphic lists the five steps for hiring a fundraising consultant, all of which are described in the text below.

1. Identify your goals and the services you need.

Before beginning to search for a fundraising consultant, you need to identify how best a consultant 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 planning and feasibility studies.

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 consultants have a proven track record of success. You can also use a fundraising consultant directory to find options.

Additionally, you can use tools like LinkedIn as a way to see if you have mutual connections with a potential consulting firm. Your connections can give you feedback about their experience with the consultants you’re considering.

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 the consultant might fit into your organization’s working culture and how interested they are in your cause.

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

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 fundraising consultant(s) that you’re interested in hiring.

A proposal is a document that outlines the nonprofit consulting process, gives you the consultant’s 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 consultant’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 (a few weeks) 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 the consultant has to establish a rapport and earn the confidence of their client
  • Experience with similar projects to yours
  • Good collaboration and listening skills
  • Excellent organization and responsiveness

Getting a proposal and references from your top candidate(s) will help you ensure 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.

5. Sign a contract.

After you’ve chosen a fundraising consultant, 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 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. For example, note whether this is the completion of a particular project or a measurable improvement to a process or 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 on the same page about the expectations and goals of your partnership.

Getting the Most Out of Your Partnership With a Consultant: 3 Top Tips

Once you’ve hired a fundraising consultant and started to work together, there are still some things you can do to ensure that your nonprofit is getting the most value possible out of the engagement. Here are some top tips.

1. Provide access to all the information and resources your consultant needs.

Your fundraising consultant is an expert in the services they offer, but they aren’t an expert on your specific organization. Help them get the information they need to understand your unique organization and mission and to make tailored recommendations that will help your organization move forward in a positive direction.

Your consultant may need access to your nonprofit’s financial information, giver data, or other resources. Work with them to ensure they have the information they need and answer any questions they have. This will encourage a mutual understanding of your nonprofit’s news and goals and set you up for successful collaboration.

2. Make regular and open 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.

3. Be open to new ideas and strategies from your consultant.

The value-add of working with a fundraising consultant is that they bring fresh perspectives and expertise to your nonprofit, giving you a different look at your organization’s needs and challenges.

Be open to trying new strategies that they propose, even if they come with a bit of a learning curve for your team. A willingness to experiment with new ideas will set you up to find the approaches that will help you do more for your beneficiaries.

Consider Averill Fundraising Solutions to Be Your Partner

This is a screenshot of the Averill Fundraising Solutions homepage.

Averill Fundraising Solutions is a full-service fundraising consulting firm whose leaders and partners have over 120 years of combined 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
  • Planning and 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!

Working with a fundraising consultant is an exciting opportunity for your nonprofit to learn more about the fundraising strategies that can lead to better results for your nonprofit. Use this quick guide to approach the process of hiring a consultant with care and to get the most out of your working relationship. Happy fundraising!

Looking for additional knowledge from the Averill Fundraising Solutions team? Here are some recommended resources:

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