So you want to hire a nonprofit consultant. What do you need? Here’s how to go about doing it for the best results. Don’t just hire a guy that that guy down the street told you to hire. Maybe you need an expert in a certain kind of fundraising. Maybe you need to figure out where you’re at before you ask someone to help you.
What are you looking for?
Is it someone to fundraise for you? IF SO- hire a staff person, even part time. Consultants are here to be advisors, teachers, coaches and support for you and your team. They are not here to be staff replacement. (Some consultants WILL step in and do tasks for you, as an interim.)
BUT if you want to:
- Raise more money and stop being overwhelmed
- Learn how to do something better
- Train your team to help you fundraise
- Board facilitation
- Measure fundraising effectiveness and look at your analytics
THEN hiring a fundraising consultant is a good next step.
Before you reach out
First, ask yourself,
- What are we currently doing for fundraising?
- What’s working, and what’s not working? (If you don’t know, hiring a consultant can help you figure this out)
- What sort of outcome do we want from working with a consultant?
- If it’s more board members in your local area, and you want someone to help you find board members, then a local consultant is the way to go.
- If it’s more sponsorships, getting a consultant to train you how to get sponsors is good.
- If you’re looking to get more money with your year end appeal, some consultants can help you write the letter and get better results than ever before!
- If you want to figure out how to make a fundraising plan and work your plan, some consultants specialize in that.
- What could your potential return on investment be for working with a consultant? (Answer- tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, greater donor engagement, keeping your donors, finding new donors, and being less stressed- how much is that worth?)
1. Look around.
Who is someone well respected as a fundraising consultant? Do you want to hire a whole team, or just a one person shop? You might say an agency, but most nonprofits cannot afford agency fees. A one-person consulting shop can be more affordable and will often know how to deal with your constraints as a small nonprofit. If you do hire an agency, make sure the person that you get assigned to your campaign has experience with doing the work. When you look, you might find these fabulous people:
Here are some people you should know, these are the people that I refer people to. I highly recommend them!
Boards and Leadership
Board Fundraising and Capital Campaigns – Gail Perry
Board Governance – Simone Joyaux
Leadership and Career Transitions
Nonprofit HR and effectiveness
Nonprofit HR and Org Development – Kishshana Palmer
Self-care advocate – Della Rae
Organizational change and culture – Christie Lindor
Organizational effectiveness and planning – Sarai Johnson The Lean Nonprofit
Earned income strategies –Wild Woman Fundraising
Writing a communications plan – Vanessa Chase- The Storytelling Nonprofit
Writing Appeal Letters, Annual Reports, Online campaigns and other nonprofit communications – Wild Woman Fundraising
Writing appeal letters, cases for support, and annual reports. – Sheena Greer
Writing direct response- fundraise and tell stories in every channel – online and offline including direct mail – Agents of Good
Training your communications director and staff – Kivi Leroux Miller
Fundraising Planning –Wild Woman Fundraising
-Sarai Johnson – The Lean Nonprofit
Capital Campaigns – Pre Campaign Planning Capital Campaign Masters with Andrea Kihlstedt
Major Gifts – Claire Axelrad
– Amy Eisenstein (for online training, tools, and videos)
– Ellen Bristol – Bristol Strategy Group and Fundraising the Smart Way (to help you measure the RIGHT metrics in major gifts)
Grantwriting –Sarah K. Wild
Planned Giving– Jon Wright of The Wright Approach
Fundraising and Technology
Genesis Theme WordPress Websites – Riot Customs
Lead generation, lead qualification, lead prioritization and automated donor online engagement and finding Donor-Advised Funds – MarketSmart (they are a tech company that partners with consultants and offers software as a service)
Picking a good donor database or assessing how the “back office” is running (aka development operations) – Robert Weiner
Reporting and developing effective metrics for fundraising – Developing the right reports and Donor Insights and Fundraising Performance – Understand who your donors are, and their value over time – Jon Wright
501 See Profit – Kishshana Palmer
2. Look beyond education.
We are now seeing nonprofit degrees proliferate like crazy from various colleges and universities. You can get a Masters in Nonprofit Organizations (MNO). A Masters in Nonprofit Management (MNM). And you can even get a PhD. Are these degrees any good in deciding which consultant to go with? Often they are not, because the classes are taught by people with no hands-on, real world nonprofit management or fundraising experience. Or they teach theory and not the practice. Fundraising is a contact sport, much like welding. You’re going to learn more by doing it than by reading any book.
So, when you’re considering who to hire, ask, are they in fact a former fundraising practitioner? What results did they get when they were employed? A good consultant should be able to tell you what jobs they held in the sector, and results they got in those jobs.
What about their current clients and work?
3. Do they have a decent website with real results that they have gotten for clients?
Every time someone tells you, I’m an expert! You need to ask, “WHY are you an expert? What MAKES you an expert?” Not just because they’ve written a book. Anyone can write a book. Has this person actually gotten real results for clients? What were their concrete fundraising results? More appeal letter returns? More money through enewsletters? What is their grant proposal win rate? How about their major gifts ask numbers? Have they ever coached someone to ask for and get a 5 figure or 6 figure gift?
What do they specialize in?
4. Everyone has different experiences and different specialties. Which one do you need?
You are not going to find a consultant who is equally good at everything, and frankly that is an unreasonable expectation. Rather, you should have a sense of what you want help with, and seek out a consultant who is good at that. I personally do not know about capital campaigns, or major gifts. I have people I would connect you with for that. What I am good at is: Nonprofit communications, including annual reports, appeal letters, enewsletters, and online campaigns. I’m also good at helping executive directors and fundraising staff create simple fundraising plans that work, and help them delegate their work so they’re less stressed. Above I’ve listed some of my favorite fundraising consulting colleagues who can help you with different aspects of your fundraising goals. We all have favorite things to help you with. So check out their work!
As Simone Joyaux says, it’s also about personality. Does their personality fit with yours? Hopefully yes!
On a related note, once you do hire a consultant, don’t ask your consultant to do something that isn’t part of your contract or isn’t one of their specialties. You will both be frustrated.
5. What if hiring a consultant is out of your price range? Try a Membership.
Some consultants will work with you by offering a membership so that you can get the benefit of their knowledge without the pricetag of working with them one-on-one.
Membership programs compared:
Gail Perry offers the Fired Up Fundraising Insiders. She has a bunch of webinars and resources every month. The information in this membership program has a LOT of board fundraising and major gift resources, which is super useful! $997/year. Learn more.
Kivi Leroux Miller offers the All Access Pass specifically for nonprofit communications directors. This mainly includes webinars and masterclass recordings on nonprofit communications. $699/year. Learn more.
Marc Pitman offers the Nonprofit Academy. This mainly includes live webinars, monthly members calls, over 100 tools and recorded trainings from 60 experts, and 50 CFRE credits. $197/year. Learn more.
Pamela Grow offers the Basics & More™ All Access Ticket, which includes 20+ online 4-week classes on topics such as planned giving, monthly giving, direct mail, online fundraising, nonprofit storytelling, surveying, and more! $650/year or $64.99/month. Learn more.
Claire Axelrad offers Clarification School, an online one-stop-shop for all things nonprofit marketing and fundraising. With 30+ years’ in-the-trenches experience leading development teams, today she shares her experience by coaching and teaching. Specialty areas include board leadership, major gifts, annual campaign and donor retention. What you get is all of her well-written articles combining theory with practical action steps, access to all webinars, monthly bonus tips and her bimonthly curated ‘Clairity Click-it’ e-news. Her school is $100-$275/year. Learn more
Wild Woman Fundraising offers Fundraising Mastermind Elite which has 10+ comprehensive e-courses, monthly webinars or live and recorded masterclasses plus complimentary access to 2 yearly online conferences, the Nonprofit Leadership Summit and the Fundraising Career Conference, plus tons of webinars by 70 fundraising experts who have been there, done that, worksheets, checklists, 116 CFRE credits and more. $697/year Learn more.
6. What even a membership program is out of your price range and you need to work on one specific thing right now? Try a course.
There are lots of online courses about how to fundraise, and lots of comprehensive courses available right on this website. Check them out!
Got more questions about how to hire a fundraising consultant? Just leave a comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org! If there’s something you need that isn’t listed here, we’ll figure out who to connect you with.