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When Do You Absolutely Need A Consultant?


Many people believe that consultants aren't necessary if you have fundraising staff. Staff surely do play the major role, but there are key times when special expertise or an objective analysis become very important.


To Conduct a Development Audit

For organizations that would like to move towards new horizons with their fundraising efforts, it is advisable to get outside, objective consultation to prepare for new development ventures. A development audit reviews past fundraising efforts of all types and interprets the results. It involves board members, staff and volunteers throughout the process to further understanding of the existing situation. Ultimately the consultant offers objective recommendations on how best to use available resources to reach realistic goals, providing a springboard of next steps for the organization. This may, but does not have to, lead to more specifically focused engagements for the consultant with the organization.


To Advise During a Capital Campaign

Success during a campaign is most likely when the staff is experienced, has great relationships with the community, when the board is strong and when the mechanics are supplemented by a consultant with experienced human insights, strategies and judgments of the kind that transcend any traditional approaches. A capital campaign is generally out of the ordinary for any organization that is smaller than a university, a hospital system or a national nonprofit. It is important to note that campaign consultants can help staff and board members to understand next steps by drawing on expertise that is not generally possessed by a single institution. The consultant will help with the capital campaign strategy, conduct a development audit, prepare the case statement and all materials, provide feedback on related special events and help in short- and long-term planning. The contract may be part-time or full-time for a designated period.


To Help Launch or Expand a Major Gifts Program

Some organizations are more comfortable when they have hired a consultant to launch or expand a major gifts program. They recognize that all staff, leadership and board members will be most effective when they are prepared to develop and nurture relationships that make a major impact on the organization's mission. Again, objectivity is important. Such a consultancy is designed to help team members understand the strategic actions behind the overall plan for meeting with prospective donors, what should be discussed, how to share the information gained during the donor meetings, how the approach can be strengthened and, most importantly, how to look at and evaluate next steps. Inherent in such a consultancy is a focus on coaching major gift officers. Bottom line: hiring a consultant under these circumstances is designed to improve and expand your relationships as well as revenues.


Other Important Reasons for Recruiting a Consultant Include;

  • A consultant can be recruited to oversee a lengthy strategic planning process, one that is often challenging staff, leadership and board members in their thinking. A consultant can ignite more expansive strategies or a different view of a situation. Objective, outside consultants become very important at such a time.

  • A great time to hire a consultant is when your organization is simply not large enough to justify hiring a full time development professional. The consultant can advise the Director of the organization on next development steps, ensuring that the Director is always front and center with the donors.

  • A consultant can be hired to focus on development of the Board, working with each member so that the whole team wins at its mission. A focus would be on Board self-evaluation to identify strengths and weaknesses coupled with a strategic planning process to determine if the existing board has the talent and expertise to reach the results necessary. The consultancy would lead to a stronger recruitment practice and a stronger organization, one more prepared and most effective for the future.

  • A consultant can be recruited to work on a very specific and targeted project, one for which the consultant has a specific body of knowledge that is scarce for other development professionals. The project can be completed more quickly and with more relevant expertise than currently exists with the staff. This is important also to supplement limited time available to existing staff.

  • A consultant can work with the development team to plan, design and help conduct a special event for the organization. In this case, a consultant may have extended contacts with celebrities, with specialists in lighting, sound, etc., and be able to get special pricing for many related items. In this case a consultant can supplement the staff resources and will simply have the type of expertise not often called upon in typical development settings.

Consultants can be enormously helpful to an organization. They should not be viewed as people coming in to "take someone else's job" but brought in to help assess various situations and offer strategies for resolution or to bolster resources when staff and leadership are challenged in both time and knowledge.


As is true in each hire for any situation, there has to be a sense of synergy with the consultants. Goals, plans and deliverables should be clear for each party. Throughout the process open and honest discussions about what is working and what is not working are as valuable in such a relationship as they are for any other work or personal relationships.


For thoughtful groups who want to capitalize on the resources that they have available, hiring a consultant can be an important boost to the process and the bottom line.



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1643 Biltmore Lane, Pittsburgh, PA 15217

412.721.4719

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