Whether you’re looking to engage fundraising consultants to help you boost your fundraising activity, develop a strategy or to help you with developing grant applications, choosing the right people is very important. The right consultancy will be a good match for your organisation’s needs. So where do you start?
First of all, let’s define what a fundraising consultant is. They can be a skilled professional, or someone who is informed about certain trends and activities, or someone who has a specialisation in this field. Before reading further onto how to choose a fundraising consultant, you must keep in mind that engaging a consultant will not suddenly create a miracle for your organisation – you must also work as hard as possible together with the consultant to ensure success.
Before approaching a consultant, start by setting goals such as what is the purpose of choosing a consultant, what you are expecting from them and what you are trying to achieve for your organisation. Also consider the cost of hiring a consultant and if it’s feasible for your organisation. Knowing these things clearly before you choose a consultant will help you determine the type of consultant you need. These goals can be things like starting a capital campaign, planning a fundraising event, improving online donations, conducting a study, writing a grant application, etc.
The Consultants’ Group of the Institute of Fundraising identifies 3 types of fundraising consultants:
- Individuals who have part-time involvement in consultancy;
- sole-traders, firms, businesses that may not be VAT registered;
- firms or businesses that are VAT registered.
All three types are often members of the Institute of Fundraising.
After you have decided on the goals and what you would like to achieve, have a look at the type of work that fundraising consultants do. These can be tasks such as:
- fundraiser audits, reviews and strategies
- develop a specific programme such as charitable trust, donor etc.
- managing events
- recruiting volunteers and fundraising staff
- IT strategy and development
- designing and managing fundraising database
- managing crisis
- studies on feasibility and resources
- capital campaigns
- applications for Trust, Grant or lottery
Once you have decided your goals and you have done some research to learn about what a fundraising consultant can do to assist you in achieving your plan, the next step is to decide the criteria for choosing the right consultant for your organisation. Questions that you may want to ask yourself include:
- What’s the minimum experience that I want them to have?
- Do I want to work with an organisation that employs a team of consultants or with a group of associate consultants?
- Do they hold any industry or quality management certifications?
- Does their profile align with my not-for-profit’s work?
- Do they have successful track record?
Once you have decided on the type of consultant, create a list of a few consultants that match your criteria. To find them, you can ask for recommendations, look online, check the Association of Fundraising Consultants or browse the directory of the Institute of Fundraising to get some ideas. Once you have created the list with a few consultants, shortlist them down to 2-3 and start holding discussions with each of them.
At EDInet we believe in a relationship based on openness and trust. We always advise organisations looking to employ the services of a fundraising consultant to choose someone that shows an interest in your organisation and is open to your feedback and vice versa – these qualities will make sure you have a positive working relationship with the consultant. It is very important that you scrutinise every potential consultant. Inquire about their past success, learn about their strategies of working, ask whether they work independently or in a group. It is important that in this process you make sure you choose the best one for your organisation. After all, you will work together with the consultant towards a common goal so it is important that you choose one that is suitable to your expectations and goals.
Once you have assessed which one is most suitable to the needs of your not-for-profit, create a collaboration agreement and a plan for the future!
To conclude, here are some final tips to remember when working with a fundraising consultants:
- Be committed: it is extremely important to commit to working with the consultant. Keep them updated on any events that could have an impact on their work, inform them of negative (and positive) feedback from your clients and always let them know of any changes. The consultants must be aware of any problems that could escalate into something bigger if not dealt with in order to do their job properly.
- Maintain good communication: this is an important part of your relationship with the consultant. Try and have regular catch ups with the consultant. Moreover, if your consultant is local, then they are more likely to know the area and build connections with people from your area.
- Let the consultant do their job: do not be too prescriptive on the services you want and let the consultant do their job of coming up with the best plan for your organisation; after all, this is why you are engaging their services. Give them as much information as possible about you organisation, financial position, income, challenges and expectations, but let them come up with the best plan suitable for you.
- Most importantly, build trust: you are working together with the consultant to achieve the best result for your organisation. The more you will work together and build a relationship of trust, the more success it will bring to your organisation. You must trust your consultant and that’s exactly why you must make sure you choose the right one for you!