Professional Fundraising Services: A Guide & 14 Top Options

By susanlienau | February 27, 2024 | Hiring a Fundraising Consultant

There are several scenarios in life where it’s wise to turn to professional assistance. For instance, if you want to keep up with your oral hygiene, you turn to a dentist. Or, if your faucet won’t stop dripping, you get help from a plumber (maybe after trying and failing to stop the leak yourself!).

The same principle applies to nonprofit fundraising. Sometimes you need expert support in the form of professional fundraising services to get the best possible results for your mission.

In this guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about professional fundraising services and what it’s like to work with a fundraising consultant. With this knowledge, your nonprofit can make a wise investment when the need for extra assistance arises. We’ll cover:

Professional fundraising services can quickly take your fundraising efforts to new heights, allowing you to do more for your beneficiaries, expand your supporter base, and ultimately scale up your organization over time. It’s well worth your time to learn about them even if your nonprofit isn’t yet ready to work with a consultant Let’s dive in.

Click through to contact Averill Fundraising Solutions and tap into their professional fundraising services.

Professional Fundraising Services Frequently Asked Questions

Before we explore how to hire a professional fundraising consultant and make the most out of your partnership, let’s dig into the fundamentals of professional fundraising services.

What are professional fundraising services?

This image and the text below define the term professional fundraising services.

The term professional fundraising services refers to the variety of services offered by professional fundraising consultants. While every consulting firm is unique and may specialize in different areas of nonprofit fundraising, these services might include:

When your nonprofit decides it’s ready to work with a professional fundraising consultant, it will be crucial to determine what services you need ahead of time. This will make your search for a consultant much more efficient and effective.

How much do professional fundraising consultants charge?

Every fundraising consultant will approach pricing differently. A few common ways include:

  • Hourly or daily rates
  • Project-based fees
  • Ongoing retainer fees

When you get to the point where you’re considering a few different consultants to hire to work with your nonprofit, make sure to discuss your budget and pricing expectations. Fundraising consultants will anticipate pricing being a part of the hiring discussion because they understand that nonprofits have to work with tight budgets and put the majority of their revenue toward their programming and services.

How do I know my nonprofit needs to work with a fundraising consultant?

As with any investment, the timing of hiring a fundraising consultant for your organization is extremely important. Here are a few signs to watch for that indicate your nonprofit is ready for professional fundraising assistance:

  • Your fundraising revenue is stagnant or in decline. If your fundraising program isn’t poised to help pull in more revenue over time or if you’re just struggling to meet bare minimum goals, this is a sign that improvements are needed. A fundraising consultant can provide an objective, third-party perspective on what is and isn’t working and help you implement positive changes.
  • You’re facing a large-scale project and don’t know where to start. Say your organization’s leaders determine that the best path forward on a major initiative is to launch a capital campaign. Your organization hasn’t conducted one before, and you’re left scrambling to know how to begin. Consultants who have worked with multiple organizations on large projects like this can guide you through all parts of the process, from your feasibility study to post-campaign tasks.
  • You’re struggling to retain your donors. Donor retention is essential for having a steady source of income, maintaining critical relationships within your community, and providing stability that allows you to make progress on long-term goals. If your donor retention rate is low, a fundraising consultant can help you identify blindspots in your cultivation and stewardship strategies, strengthen donor relationships, and increase giving.

While you’ll want to invest in professional fundraising services when the time is right, you don’t necessarily need to wait to see one or more of the signs described above. You can hire a fundraising consultant as a preventative measure to strengthen your team and strategies ahead of large projects or periods of growth.

What should I look for in a fundraising consultant?

To ensure you work with a consultant who is the right fit for your organization and its internal working culture, look for the following characteristics:

This image and the text below list the characteristics to look for in a professional fundraising consultant.
  • Expertise that suits your needs. You wouldn’t go to a mechanic for a broken arm. Similarly, you don’t want to work with a fundraising consultant who focuses solely on capital campaigns if you need assistance planning your annual gala. Consider individual consultants’ expertise and specialties to ensure you’re working with someone who will address your nonprofit’s most pressing issues. If they have experience in other areas, keep that in the back of your mind should future needs arise!
  • Experience in getting results for nonprofits. To be confident that you’ll get a return on your investment of hiring a fundraising consultant, hire someone with a proven track record of getting great results. During the hiring process (more on this below), ask about the results each consultant has achieved and request examples of their work. You’ll also have the opportunity to ask for references and reviews, allowing you to speak with other organizations that have used their services in the past.
  • Interest and investment in your mission. While your consultant doesn’t need to know all the ins and outs of your cause right off the bat, they should be interested in your mission and invested in seeing you succeed. When this is the case, you can be confident they’ll do their best work for you.
  • Strong communication skills. A good consultant will know how to communicate with your team, whether that means breaking down complex processes into understandable action steps or simply keeping you in the loop as they strategize to improve your fundraising efforts. Look for someone who is a strong conversationalist, is willing to explain difficult concepts, and is readily available to provide updates and answer questions.
  • Collaborative approach. Most of the time, a consultant won’t just come in and run your fundraisers for you. They’ll be your partner, offering insights and instruction that help your team learn how to strengthen itself. Seek out someone who understands the importance of collaboration and will defer to your judgment to make the best decisions possible for your organization and the people it serves.

Keep an eye out for these characteristics throughout the hiring process, not just the interview phase. This will help you select a consultant whose expertise, experience, and working style align with your organization’s values and goals.

How to Hire the Right Professional Fundraising Consultant

Once you know that your organization could benefit from professional fundraising services, it’s time to jump into the fundraising consultant hiring process. Though this process will vary slightly from organization to organization, here are some general steps to follow:

This image and the text below walk through the steps for hiring a fundraising consultant.

1. Identify your goals and the services you need.

Begin by clearly identifying your organization’s goals for working with a consultant and the fundraising services you’re looking for. For example, you might have a goal to increase contributions to your annual fund by 25%. This would mean that you need to find a consultant who can help you engage your supporters and grow your prospect pipeline.

It’s best practice to include your organization’s leaders and board members in this conversation. Together you can identify the most important areas you want to focus on with a consultant and outline some guidelines for the engagement (timeline, budget, etc.). This way, you’ll get everyone on the same page about the need for a consultant early on, reducing confusion or pushback that could arise later on in the hiring process.

2. Use your network.

Once you know what you’re looking for, you’ll need to do some research to find potential consultants to work with. One of the best ways to do so is to turn to your network of nonprofit colleagues for recommendations.

Ask your peers about their experiences hiring and working with fundraising consultants in the past and who they would work with again if given the chance. By turning to fellow nonprofit professionals for this information, you can be confident you’ll get honest answers

You can also use online directories and lists to find potential consultants. Use these resources as a jumping-off point to do more research and create a shortlist of consultants whom you’re truly interested in working with.

3. Meet with your top candidates.

At this stage in the process, it’s time to meet up with your top picks to get to know them and their fundraising philosophies better.

Give the consultants plenty of time to ask questions about your organization, its goals, and its work. Ask them to tell you about their approach to their services and speak to successful engagements they’ve had with similar organizations in the past.

This is also your first chance to assess how well each consultant might fit into your organization’s working culture.

4. Request proposals and check references.

After your initial meeting with your top contenders, request a proposal from the consultants you’re still interested in working with. This will require your team to write a request for proposal (RFP) document to let the consultant know what you’re looking for. An RFP should include the following elements:

  • A brief overview of your organization that includes your mission, vision, and impact information
  • A description of the services you’re looking for and the issues you’re trying to solve
  • Engagement guidelines like budget, timeframe, and success metrics
  • Expected outcomes or deliverables
  • Additional information or questions

Send your RFP to each consultant and give them a reasonable amount of time (two weeks or so) to get back to you with completed proposals. A strong proposal will include:

  • A strong understanding of and appreciation for your nonprofit’s work
  • Suggested solutions or ideas for the challenges or goals presented in your RFP
  • The consultant’s credentials and references
  • Estimated costs for the consultant’s services

If there’s anything you’d like to see adjusted or clarified in the consultant’s proposal, don’t hesitate to reach out to them and request changes. This is a great way to see how well they collaborate and handle feedback.

Using the information provided in the finalized proposal, check the consultant’s references. Ask each reference candid, open-ended questions to ensure you get the full picture of what it’s like to work with the consultant.

5. Sign a contract.

Now that you’ve found a professional fundraising consultant who you feel is the best partner for your organization and can help meet your fundraising needs, it’s time to sign a contract. The contract should outline the following:

  • The timeframe of the engagement
  • What the consultant will be paid, at what rate, and when they will receive payment
  • Your consultant’s responsibilities and your organization’s responsibilities
  • Specific services that will be provided
  • Goals and objectives of the engagement
  • Success metrics for the engagement (e.g., dollars raised)

Once you have all of this in writing, your nonprofit can begin working with its new fundraising consultant! Remember to refer back to the contract often to ensure that the engagement is on track for success and that both parties are fulfilling their end of the deal.

Maximizing the Value of Professional Fundraising Services: 3 Tips

Working with a fundraising consultant is a valuable opportunity for your team to refine its processes and strategies and learn new things about fundraising that can benefit your organization far into the future. Here are some tips to ensure you’re getting the most out of your engagement with a consultant:

  • Provide your consultant with the information and resources they need to do their job well. Remember, your consultant is new to working with your organization. This means they won’t know exactly where to go when they need a copy of your most recent feasibility study findings or your marketing materials for your last campaign. Make sure your team knows to be prompt in delivering relevant materials to your consultant and is available to answer questions along the way.
  • Be open-minded about new ideas or strategies. One of the best things about working with a professional fundraising consultant is that they’ll often push you out of your fundraising comfort zone and invite you to consider new ideas and strategies. Be open to these suggestions and use a critical eye to evaluate your current fundraising efforts. While you don’t have to adopt all of your consultant’s ideas, you’ll likely find that most of them lead to more success for your organization.
  • Provide feedback throughout the engagement. Let your consultant know how the engagement is going. Back up your positive feedback with success metrics and thoughts on deliverables. Don’t be afraid to also provide constructive feedback. This will help your consultant be a better asset to your organization and future clients they work with.

It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to find the right fundraising consultant. Don’t squander the opportunity by being a passive recipient of your consultant’s services. Take a proactive approach to ensure you’re getting the best return on investment possible.

14 Top Professional Fundraising Firms to Consider

Now that you know how to effectively hire and work with a fundraising consultant, you’re likely ready to begin your search for potential partners. Here are 14 top options to consider:

1. Averill Fundraising Solutions – The #1 Choice for Nonprofits Seeking Professional Fundraising Services

Screenshot of Averill Fundraising Solutions, a leading professional fundraising services firms

Averill Fundraising Solutions (Averill) is a full-service consulting firm whose consultants have a combined 120 years of experience in helping nonprofits reach their goals.

At this consulting firm, capacity-building and long-term organizational growth and success are the focus. The Averill team can help you meet your own capacity-building goals through the following services:

  • Campaign Direction: Averill’s consultants are experts in planning and managing major fundraising campaigns, and they’ve raised over $3.5 billion for their clients over the years.
  • Planning and Feasibility Studies: This consulting firm knows that assessing your organization’s campaign readiness and donor engagement is critical before a major campaign. They can help you manage all the parts of the feasibility study process.
  • Annual Fund Direction: Annual funds allow nonprofits to keep their organizations in operation. The Averill Fundraising Solutions team can help grow your annual fund and get your donors engaged.
  • Embedded Fundraising Management Staffing: In the middle of hiring, but still want a strong fundraising team? No worries. This team of consultants can join your team in the interim, providing hands-on training in best practices to strengthen your strategies.
  • Leadership Learning: Leading fundraising workshops and retreats for nonprofit leaders is one of Averill’s specialties and can help transform your organization’s fundraising efforts from the inside out.
  • Executive Search: Finding the right chief development officer for your nonprofit doesn’t have to be a headache. Averill will support your team in the recruitment and hiring process, and help you develop a rigorous onboarding strategy.

Averill Fundraising Solutions serves a wide variety of organizations, including:

  • Secondary and higher education
  • Faith-based organizations
  • Healthcare organizations
  • Human service organizations
  • Professional societies
  • Arts and cultural organizations
  • Civic and social groups

Averill Fundraising Solutions is the number one choice for nonprofits looking to level up their fundraising operations. But don’t just take our word for it—check out these testimonials from a couple of Averill’s happy clients:

Averill’s President, Robert C. Happy, Jr., has served as a trusted advisor to Seton Hall Preparatory School through three capital campaigns. Most recently Bob and the Averill team have guided The Prep through the ‘Generations’ Campaign, which has raised more than $25,000,000. I would give Averill Fundraising Solutions my highest recommendation.

John B. Murray, Esq., Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Seton Hall Preparatory School

Averill provided the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE) with the expertise and direction to establish a philanthropy program in celebration of our Centennial. Due to Averill’s strategic thinking, invaluable advice, and campaign management, SMPTE successfully launched its first fundraising campaign and secured significant support from top industry corporations. It was an absolute pleasure working with Averill Fundraising Solutions.

Barbara Lange, Executive Director, Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers

2. Alexander Haas

Screenshot of Alexander Haas, a professional fundraising services firm

Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Alexander Haas works with nonprofits and institutions of all shapes and sizes across the United States. Over the last 30 years, this consulting firm has helped thousands of organizations attain new levels of success.

Alexander Haas’s services include:

  • Capital campaign strategy studies that go beyond traditional feasibility study models
  • Pre-campaign counsel that includes understanding relationships with donors, estimating costs, and more
  • Capital campaign execution, progress monitoring, and adjustments
  • Endowment campaign counsel
  • Board of directors evaluations and optimizations
  • Data screening, analytics, and predictive modeling to better understand your organization’s donors

Alexander Haas’s consultants know that sometimes organizations need a fresh, objective, and experienced perspective on their fundraising strategies in order to make lasting and successful improvements.

3. Graham-Pelton

Screenshot of Graham-Pelton, a professional fundraising services firm

Graham-Pelton is committed to elevating philanthropy to help nonprofits grow and make a greater impact. This consulting firm serves healthcare organizations, higher education institutions, independent schools, and social and global impact organizations.

The Graham-Pelton team offers the following services:

  • Campaign planning and feasibility studies that focus not just on whether campaigns are feasible but on how your team can succeed regardless of findings
  • Campaign counsel, strategy, and management
  • Database optimization to help you focus your team’s time and effort on relationship building instead of data entry and maintenance
  • Prospect pool development to prioritize top prospects and approach them with confidence
  • Tailored organizational growth and strategic planning assistance
  • Beyond Gratitude™ methodology for better grateful patient and family fundraising

One thing that stands out about Graham-Pelton is their Client Listening Program, a built-in way for their consultants to get feedback from their clients at every step of the consulting engagement. This helps clients drive the maximum value from their engagements.

4. GP Catholic Services

Screenshot of GP Catholic Services, a professional fundraising services firm

Specializing in designing and running fundraising campaigns for Catholic dioceses, schools, parishes, religious orders, and congregations, GP Catholic Services is the go-to consulting firm for Catholic organizations.

GP Catholic Services’ services include:

  • Capital campaign counsel built on the principles of Christian stewardship
  • Major gift prospect identification and engagement centered on faith
  • Mission 360 Development Assessments, which evaluate your organization’s stewardship and development programs in a way that brings together mission, ministry, and fundraising
  • Annual appeal strategy creation and implementation to help engage your organization’s supporters and increase major giving

This consulting firm is committed to helping the Catholic Church advance its mission and serve more people in need by partnering with organizations to boost fundraising dollars. If your organization is rooted in the Catholic faith, GP Catholic Services could be the right partner for you!

5. Ruotolo Associates

Screenshot of Ruotolo Associates, a professional fundraising services firm

Ruotolo Associates has been providing professional fundraising services to organizations of all kinds in the U.S. and abroad since 1979.

Check out some of Ruotolo Associates’ core services:

  • Fundraising strategy, including pre-campaign studies, advancement program assessments, and strategic planning assistance
  • Capital campaign management, including major gift cultivation and solicitation, case statement development, marketing collateral creation, special event planning, and staff and volunteer training
  • Prospect research assistance to screen individuals for philanthropic potential and identify and solicit corporations and foundations for funding
  • Executive search to help nonprofits find executives and development officers
  • Training for boards, professional fundraisers, and volunteers

One unique thing about Ruotolo Associates is that, in addition to fundraising services, this firm also provides public relations counsel to nonprofits, meaning that its consultants can help you manage and strengthen your organization’s reputation and brand image.

6. Grants Plus

Screenshot of Grants Plus, a professional fundraising services firm

Grants Plus is a unique fundraising consulting firm, as it focuses solely on seeking and securing grants for its clients. If you’re looking to improve your nonprofit’s approach to getting grant funding, this may be the consulting firm for you.

While Grants Plus can help your organization with one-off tasks like grant prospect research or federal grant writing, they most often work with organizations as a full-service grants team. Here’s what this service, their Partner Plan, includes:

  • Grant opportunity identification so that your nonprofit can focus on the right funders at the right times
  • Relationship-building support for your organization and its potential funders
  • Grant proposal and report writing that helps tell your organization’s story and express compelling needs

This firm has helped its clients secure a total of over $300 million in grant funding since beginning its operations in 2007. With this track record of success, you can be confident that Grants Plus will help your organization get a solid ROI on its grant-seeking efforts.

7. Heller Consulting

Screenshot of Heller Consulting, a professional fundraising services firm

It can be difficult for nonprofits to navigate the world of technology to find the best solutions that move their missions forward. That’s where Heller Consulting and its nonprofit technology consulting services come in.

At this consulting firm, your organization can tap into the following services:

  • Technology strategy development and solution selection to help your team identify the tools that will best enhance its work
  • Technology implementation that will boost productivity and return on investment
  • Managed services to consistently revisit your organization’s technology goals and needs and adjust your strategy as needed
  • Change management to help your team embrace new tools and solutions and transition smoothly to better workflows

One thing to note about Heller Consulting is that while their consultants have extensive experience with Salesforce, Microsoft, and Blackbaud solutions, they don’t work exclusively with any of those companies. This means they can help you choose the best solution for your nonprofit without any conflict of interest.

8. Meyer Partners

Screenshot of Meyer Partners, a professional fundraising services firm

Meyer Partners is a full-service nonprofit communications consulting firm, meaning their consultants know the importance of sharing your mission with the world and developing effective strategies to do so.

Some of their services include:

  • Data analytics to understand your donors and build strong, long-term relationships
  • Creative storytelling to touch supporters’ hearts and minds and encourage action
  • Direct mail for driving fundraising revenue
  • Digital communication channel strategy development that builds relationships first and fundraises second
  • Print and digital communications integration to connect with your donors on all the channels they use the most

Meyer Partners focuses first on relationship building, which ultimately helps their clients get better fundraising results. If you need donor communications assistance, consider partnering with this firm.

9. Capital Campaign Pro

Screenshot of Capital Campaign Pro, a professional fundraising services firm

This firm doesn’t offer traditional capital campaign services for nonprofits. Instead, Capital Campaign Pro offers a wide variety of resources (and access to expert help) to empower your nonprofit to take the reins on its own capital campaigns.

Here are a few resources you can tap into when you partner with Capital Campaign Pro’s advisors:

  • An extensive online toolkit that includes templates, worksheets, and checklists you can use to plan and execute your campaign
  • Capital campaign planning assistance from an experienced Campaign Pro advisor
  • Guided feasibility studies, in which your team is trained on how to conduct the interview portion on its own
  • Weekly group advising calls in which you learn from other nonprofit leaders conducting capital campaigns

Having your nonprofit be more involved in the capital campaigning experience will result in more funding secured and stronger relationships with your community, and the Capital Campaign Pro team can coach you on how to get there.

10. Brian Lacy and Associates

Screenshot of Brian Lacy and Associates, a professional fundraising services firm

Brian Lacy and Associates is a fundraising and data services consulting firm that has over 30 years of experience. Their consultants understand the relationship between data and fundraising success.

Take a closer look at some of Brian Lacy and Associates’ services:

  • Annual giving consulting to fully engage your supporters
  • Database correction and enrichment, which can help your organization get the most out of its data
  • Prospect identification and wealth screening to get detailed and accurate philanthropic profiles you can act on
  • E-magazine design to produce useful and engaging materials to share with your supporters

Making data-driven decisions is crucial for a nonprofit’s health and overall success, but first, you have to be confident in the data you have. That’s why this consulting firm helps you keep up with your data and test it—so you know your fundraising team has the right information on its side.

Check out Brian Lacy and Associates’ website to learn more about working with them.

11. Getting Attention

Screenshot of Getting Attention, a professional fundraising services firm

Getting Attention doesn’t offer traditional professional fundraising services. Rather, it’s a Google Ad Grant agency that helps nonprofits harness the power of the Google Ad Grant and boost their presence on the web.

The Google Ad Grant awards $10,000 in Google Ads credits to qualifying nonprofits each month, allowing organizations to be more visible on Google when users type in terms related to their cause, programs, or events. Getting Attention helps nonprofits use the Ad Grant by offering the following:

  • Google Ad Grant application completion to get your nonprofit quickly up and running with the grant
  • Ad Grant account hygiene to ensure you never have unnecessary information clogging up your account and slowing down your results
  • Google Ad Grant reactivation assistance if your account lapses or gets suspended
  • Keyword research and ad creation that helps your organization create eye-catching and action-inspiring ads

It’s important to note that the Google Ad Grant is a marketing tool first and a fundraising tool second. So, if you’re hoping to give your organization’s website a boost, looking into the Google Ad Grant and partnering with Getting Attention may be just the right move for you.

12. Concord Leadership Group

Screenshot of Concord Leadership Group, a professional fundraising services firm

At the Concord Leadership Group, helping nonprofit leaders embrace their positions and perform in their roles to the best of their abilities is the number one priority. After all, leadership can greatly impact a nonprofit’s ability to fundraise effectively and make a difference in beneficiaries’ lives.

This firm’s services include:

  • Executive coaching to help top leaders excel in their roles
  • Strategic planning assistance, which can help your nonprofit’s leaders outline their goals and effectively plan for the future
  • Staff or team training to promote deeper employee engagement and strengthen your internal culture

Sometimes the thing holding your nonprofit back from seeing fundraising success is your team’s lack of knowledge or confidence. When you work with the Concord Leadership Group, you can learn the skills it needs to be more effective in every area.

13. Pennington & Company

Screenshot of Pennington & Company, a professional fundraising services firm

If your organization is a fraternity or sorority and is seeking fundraising advice, look no further than Pennington & Company. This fundraising consulting firm helps Greek organizations meet their fundraising goals and strengthen relationships with alumni all at once.

Some of their services include:

  • Capital campaign feasibility studies and fundraising to complete major projects
  • Alumni engagement and communication strategy development, including print and digital newsletter creation, member management assistance, and gift management support
  • Website development for chapter websites
  • Alumni database management to keep your information accurate and actionable

Fraternities and sororities depend on the generosity of their alumni to keep their legacies going and enrich student members’ academic lives. Working with a fundraising consultant can make a big difference in these efforts!

14. The Sheridan Group

Screenshot of The Sheridan Group, a consulting firm that provides professional fundraising services.

Founded in 1983, The Sheridan Group is a full-service fundraising consultancy. While this firm specializes in all aspects of nonprofit management, it specializes in designing and carrying out fundraising strategies, particularly for associations and their foundations.

Some of The Sheridan Group’s services include: 

  • Program and campaign assessments to discover and address your organization’s challenges and opportunities
  • Major gift fundraising backed by a fail-safe risk management methodology 
  • Feasibility studies, planning, and management for capital campaigns 

Over the years The Sheridan Group has become a leading consulting firm, serving 250 clients in a variety of sectors and helping them raise over $1 billion combined. If your organization is an association or association foundation looking for an experienced consulting partner, The Sheridan Group is a great choice. 

No matter what cause your nonprofit champions or how long it’s been operating, there will likely come a time when you need third-party assistance to refresh and level up your fundraising strategy. Use this guide as a resource to guide you in the professional fundraising consultant search and hiring process, and be proactive in ensuring your partnership yields great results for you and your beneficiaries!

Want to keep ready about the world of fundraising? Check out these resources:

Click through to contact Averill Fundraising Solutions and learn more about their professional fundraising services.

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