Nonprofit organizations are a great way to bring much-needed services and activities to communities. But running a nonprofit isn’t easy! In fact, we often inform our clients that managing a nonprofit is significantly harder than operating a for-profit company! That is where a nonprofit consultant can come in to help you create clear strategies along the way.
Struggling to grow your nonprofit? Here’s how to choose the best consultants for your organization.
- Consider the following factors:
- The consultant’s experience. Many consultants have been in the nonprofit game for years, but not all of them are cut out to help you solve your problems and achieve your goals. Make sure that the company you choose has a track record of success in their field—and that they’ve also worked with organizations similar to yours.
- The consultant’s reputation. Has this company helped other charities grow? Are there testimonials from clients who were happy with their services? If so, reach out to these organizations and ask questions about how they felt about working with this consulting firm. If there are no testimonials available online or elsewhere, try calling other nonprofits in similar fields and asking them if they know anything about this potential partner’s expertise or abilities based on personal experience working with them or hearing other people talk about what an amazing job they did for someone else’s group.
- Personality alignment matters too! Be sure that their team will work well with yours.
Determine your needs
Before you start working with a nonprofit consultant, it’s important to know what problems you’re trying to solve and what your goals are. How much time do you have? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Are there recurring issues holding you back from reaching those goals? Do all of the team members think that this is a good idea, or would some members prefer a different approach?
These questions will help determine which type of consultant is right for your organization.
Clarify what you expect from the consultant
Before you begin your search for a nonprofit consultant, it’s important to clarify what you expect from the consultant. A good way to do this is by asking yourself these questions:
- What are my expectations? What am I hiring the consultant to do? How much time and money have I budgeted for this project?
- What is the scope of work? Is there an existing plan or framework that can guide our project together? Are there specific deliverables I want them to create or milestones we need them to meet by certain dates/times in order? Do they have experience in similar projects with similar scopes of work (for example, if you’re looking for someone who has worked on other events like yours)?
- Who will be involved in the project? Who else will be responsible for what aspects of my event — marketing, staffing requirements/staff training, etc.? It may seem like a small thing, but clarity around roles and responsibilities early on will help keep everyone happy throughout the duration of the events planning process!
Check out the consultant’s website and online presence
As you look over a nonprofit consultant’s website, consider how it meets your needs. Is the site easy to navigate? Do you find the information you need quickly? Is it current and up-to-date? For example, a site that includes information about their experience working with nonprofits is more likely to be reputable than one without any mention of this at all.
Understand the value of experience, expertise, and a good reputation.
One of the most important things to understand about consultants is that, regardless of their skill set, what matters most is their experience. As we’ve mentioned before, experts are the ones who have been there and done that. They know what works, what doesn’t work, and why. This is critical information to have when making decisions about your nonprofit or cause.
One problem with inexperienced consultants is that they may not have all of this knowledge readily available. They could only be working with one toolset or methodology at a time—which means they may not be able to help you solve problems outside of those toolsets or methodologies (or even within them). Consultants who are new tend not to have developed a reputation yet either—so it can be difficult for potential clients and donors alike to judge whether or not they should trust them with important decisions and resources such as money and time.
The best consultants have nonprofit experience.
- They understand the challenges and limitations of the field.
- They have a good understanding of the issues facing your organization.
- They can help you overcome obstacles and avoid pitfalls.
- They are familiar with the latest trends in the industry.
Nonprofit consulting is not a one-size-fits-all field.
When you’re deciding who to hire as a consultant, it’s important to consider their qualifications, experience, and the tools they use. A consultant should have strong credentials in the nonprofit field and be able to demonstrate that they have worked with other nonprofits like yours. They should also be able to show how they will help your organization achieve its mission and meet its goals through the services they offer.
In addition to being well-qualified, consultants must understand that nonprofit organizations are diverse organizations with different needs. While some consultants focus on fundraising or operations, others specialize in program development or impact measurement. Because every organization is unique in both its size and purpose, it’s important for you as a client to choose a consultant who can provide support for your specific challenges within each of these areas so that you can get the best results possible from your investment in consulting services.
Look for an advisor, not a vendor.
As you look for a consultant, keep this in mind: an advisor is a partner who will help you grow your nonprofit and make an impact in your community. A vendor is a service provider—the difference may seem subtle, but it’s important.
An advisor understands that nonprofits are complex organizations with many needs (especially when it comes to fundraising), and they have years of experience helping clients achieve their goals. Vendors just sell products or services; they don’t usually understand the intricacies of running a nonprofit organization.
The best consultants will ask you…
… pointed questions about your needs, strengths, weaknesses, and organizational culture — and listen to your answers.
When evaluating nonprofits for consulting services, it’s important to look for a consultant who can ask you pointed questions about your needs, strengths and weaknesses. The best consultants will also listen to your answers.
When choosing a nonprofit consultant, consider asking them about their past work with other organizations like yours. You want to know whether the consultant understands your organization’s unique challenges and outlook on what makes it thrive.
Ensure they understand impact, fundraising, & operations!
Impact, fundraising, and operations consulting are all important for nonprofits to succeed. They’re also different in terms of skill set and focus.
If you’ve hired a consultant who doesn’t understand the difference between these three areas, you’re wasting your money. To help you evaluate whether or not your consultant understands impact, fundraising, and operations well enough to be of any use to you, consider these questions:
- What is their experience? Have they worked in any other industries besides nonprofits? Get references from past clients! You’ll want someone who has been involved with both small local organizations as well as large national ones. Also, make sure they’ve done work with diverse types of non-profits – like those focused on education, healthcare, or community development.
- Do they specialize in one particular area (like raising money)? If so, how long have they been doing it?
- Are they strategists, or will they be looking to you to guide them?
- Do they understand that donors are more likely to fund your organization when you show them their impact?
Choose a firm that can become part of your organization’s culture quickly because relationships matter.
You should choose a nonprofit consultant who can become part of your organization’s culture quickly because relationships matter. The importance of trust and communication was mentioned above, but there are other considerations as well: chemistry and the ability to work together.
Choosing an individual rather than a team may save you money in the short term, but it will cost more in the long run because your relationship won’t be built on trust or communication. It will be built on distrust, miscommunication, and frustration—which can lead to bad results for everyone involved.
Know what success looks like at the end of the project.
Pick a nonprofit consultant you can trust to communicate honestly and openly with you along the way — don’t just pick a bad consultant who’ll nod and agree with you on everything. When you have a good working relationship with your nonprofit consultant, there should be open lines of communication. You should feel comfortable asking questions and sharing concerns throughout the project because if you don’t, your consultant won’t know what success looks like at the end of their work with you.
This is why it’s important to pick someone who listens well — not just someone who nods and agrees with everything you say. They don’t have to agree with everything; they just need to listen carefully so that they can give advice based on what matters most for your organization’s needs right now (rather than relying on outdated data or personal opinions).
Investing in nonprofit consultants can be one of the most effective ways for organizations to achieve long-term success, but it’s important to find the right fit for you.
Consulting can be one of the most effective ways for nonprofits to achieve long-term success. A good consultant will help you establish a solid plan and make sure it’s put into action. But finding the right fit for your organization isn’t always easy. To evaluate whether a nonprofit consulting firm is right for your nonprofit:
- Evaluate their track record and expertise. Does this firm have experience working with other organizations like yours? What kind of results do they typically produce? Check references and ask about specific projects or clients from which you can get insights into how well they worked together in the past (or didn’t).
- Assess their reputation within the industry. Does this person have a strong reputation among others in his or her field? What does this person say about himself/herself? If possible, check out any online reviews that others may have written about him/her or his/her work with nonprofits before making any decisions about hiring them as consultants on your behalf as well.”
We hope this list will help you find the perfect consultant for your organization. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the benefits of hiring a consultant, please contact us at [email protected] or schedule a call using this link.