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A Guide To Hiring The Right Fundraising Consultant

Many small to mid-sized nonprofits struggle to find enough time or resources to build an effective and sustainable fundraising strategy. For this reason, many of them look to hire a third-party consultant to assist them in creating something innovative. But how does one choose the right partner?

A QUICK GUIDE TO HIRING THE RIGHT FUNDRAISING CONSULTANT
by Wright Collective

Since the process of hiring a consultant can be daunting, especially if it is your first time doing so, you have to be thoughtful. If you’re seeking to hire a fundraising consultant in particular, there are a few essential steps you should follow to ensure both you and the consultant(s) enter into a successful partnership.


1) IDENTIFY YOUR INTERNAL GOALS, AND ASSESS YOUR CAPACITY - think of hiring a consultant like managing a new staff person- are you ready?

Before you start your search process, think of the reason why you are hiring a fundraising consultant. What are your internal goals? Where does your nonprofit need to grow? Individuals? Corporate donors? Institutional partners? What are you hoping to accomplish with these new supporters? Will the newly hired consultant be able to assist you in achieving that target? Do they have the experience working with those constituents?


Besides your external goals, you have to think about your organization’s capacity to execute as well. Will you have enough time and energy to manage a new partnership? Bringing a new consultant(s) to the organization can help make fundraising activities a reality but they also require some training and management. It’s possible but also, be ready to make the space for it. Remember, the consultant(s) is there to help with both short term and long term goals - both which can be achieved with thoughtfulness and consistency.


Before you start your search process, think of the reason why you are hiring a fundraising consultant. What are your internal goals? Where does your nonprofit need to grow? Individuals? Corporate donors? Institutional partners? What are you hoping to accomplish with these new supporters? Will the newly hired consultant be able to assist you in achieving that target? Do they have the experience working with those constituents?


Besides your external goals, you have to think about your organization’s capacity to execute as well. Will you have enough time and energy to manage a new partnership? Bringing a new consultant(s) to the organization can help make fundraising activities a reality but they also require some training and management. It’s possible but also, be ready to make the space for it. Remember, the consultant(s) is there to help with both short term and long term goals - both which can be achieved with thoughtfulness and consistency.


2) DETERMINE WHAT SERVICES YOU NEED

Prior to starting to look for a consultant, you’ll have to determine the type of services you need. When entering the organization, the consultant(s) has to develop a clear understanding of their role in helping you assess your existing fundraising program and mapping a plan for the future.


Areas where nonprofits usually need the most help are:

  • Developing a timely fundraising campaign strategy (capital projects, anniversaries, etc…)

  • Prospect research (finding new donors!)

  • Wealth screening (accessing more resources from existing donors!)

  • Capital campaign feasibility studies

  • Guidance in an ongoing campaign (is your campaign struggling? Get it back on track!)

  • Training on fundraising best practices (can your board fundraise well? Your new director?)

  • Support in hiring new staff (can’t find and recruit the talent you need?)


3) DEVELOP REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS (RFPs)

In order to get an idea of how qualified a candidate might be, you need to develop a request for proposal. A RFP is a document used to communicate an organization’s needs and expectations to the consultants who might be hired. Basically, it’s an outline of the requirements for an assessment and/or project.

By submitting well prepared proposals, it will be easier to secure quality candidates, assess their backgrounds and compare their skills, and finally identify which candidate is best qualified for the role.

Make sure to take your time to develop an RFP, since it needs to clearly and accurately explain what you want from a potential consultant.

The RFP can include:

  • An overview and background information on your organization

  • The goals and objective of your project

  • How results will be measured

  • Scope and timeline of your project

  • Suggestions for solutions to the obstacles you identified


4) START THE INITIAL SEARCH BY ASKING FOR RECOMMENDATIONS FROM YOUR NETWORK

Now you’re ready to start the search process! The best way is to reach out to your peers in the nonprofit sector who have previous experience in working with consultants. Look for consultants who have a proven record of successful work. Often, your funders may have a list of consultants they recommend to and, this will allow you to ask funders you already have to potentially cover the costs of the fundraising consultant.


Other ways to search for a consultant are:

  • Conduct an online research on search engines or social platforms like LinkedIn and Idealist

  • Use a fundraising consultant directory like within your local nonprofit association

  • Ask members of your staff who have previously worked for similar organizations


5) SCHEDULE MEETINGS WITH YOUR TOP CANDIDATES

Once you’ve gathered a significant amount of information, formulated an idea of who the top candidates are, it’s best to schedule a meeting with them and get to know them better. This can help you evaluate if they fit into your organization’s culture, values, mission and goals.


Ask the potential consultants about their previous experiences in the field. Get to understand their fundraising philosophy, how they like to approach strategy and their ability to face obstacles and shape culture by way of relationship-building with philanthropy as a sector partner.


This technique will help you formulate a concept about the work values and ethics of the candidate before drafting a proposal. In addition, the candidate will also develop an understanding of your work process and what you’re exactly looking for.


After the meeting, send the RFP to the candidate setting a clear due date for when you’d like to get them back to you, making sure you’re giving a reasonable amount of time for them to develop an effective and a high quality proposal. The recommended time is a minimum of 2 weeks. That ways, they can draft a thoughtful scope of work for you.


6) REVIEW AND EVALUATE THE SUBMITTED RFP(s) - Remember you are looking for a partner!

Before you even send RFPs, you should have a measurable and precise plan on how the review process will be.

  • Make sure to have a “review” committee ready

  • Assign each member’s responsibilities

  • Develop an evaluation criteria with scoring systems for each element in the RFP


Naturally, a few proposals will stand out to you and will cause confusion of which one to pick. It is normal and typical in a hiring process to make amendments and reach out to the top candidates asking them to make changes or adjustments to their strategies. Remember, this process takes time!


The candidate should be happy and willing to make the necessary adjustments that meet your specific needs or, suggest a partner who may compliment the proposal if it is not their area of strength. You’re looking for a sophisticated, visionary partner who will support your vision and goals, not just an additional member to the team, so you have to ensure you’re hiring the right person who’s flexible and open to discuss ways to make things better. Plus, help you grow your community by way of partnering with them.


7) FINALIZE THE CONTRACT AND CLARIFY PREFERENCES FOR COMMUNICATION

After reviewing, analyzing and evaluating the final proposals, you should be ready to congratulate the chosen candidate and invite them to sign the contract to make the partnership official.


A well crafted contract should include:

  • The project timeframe

  • An outline of the responsibilities

  • Goals and objectives of the project

  • How success will be measured

  • Payment

  • Legal language to protect the partnership


The more detailed and precise your contract is the less room for misunderstandings and clashes so engaging a lawyer to review the contract might be worth your time.


Once the contract is signed, make sure to chat with the newly hired consultant(s) about your work culture. Explain and clarify your preferences for communication and specify work hours. You have to be on the same page from the start, so confusion and misunderstandings won’t rise. Trust can be built from Day 1!



Hiring a fundraising consultant might be the best and most valuable decision you can make for the future of your organization. We know because we've raised over $60 MIL in partnerships with clients. Keep this guide top of your mind when you start the hiring process to make sure you choose someone who will meet or even exceed your expectations and champion your cause. Remember: you’re looking for a passionate, skilled partner!


Currently looking for a consultant? Wright Collective’s experienced fundraisers and philanthropic advisors can tailor services to help you skyrocket your nonprofits' impact. We work intentionally to bring all stakeholders together to create trust-based, long-term partnerships by challenging our sector to evolve and unapologetically support nonprofit professionals, movement leaders, and philanthropists of all kinds.


Contact us via info@wrightcollective.co