Over coffee this morning, I was asked by an accomplished development professional, “How do you know whether to hire a fundraising consultant?” My coffee companion had experienced managing large development shops and had even run capital campaigns. She had recently taken a position with a new organization, however, and was considering future steps. Here was my answer:
1. Will significant change be required in order to achieve your fundraising goals? Counsel can be extremely helpful when trying to shift staff, systems, or a board of directors in new directions, particularly when time is of the essence due to budgetary requirements or other strategic needs. Even the most accomplished fundraising professional can benefit from additional support to plan for and implement fundraising goals that are beyond “business as usual.”
2. Does your organization have the bandwidth to absorb counsel? In other words, are staff and volunteers prepared to make the financial and time investments that are required for success? With consulting, you get what you pay for. The most effective fundraising counsel is outcomes-based, which means you should begin with a frank conversation up front about what actions are required by both you and your consulting team to accomplish your goals.
3. Would you be better off hiring permanent staff? Like Mary Poppins, a fundraising consultant will eventually leave you, but a good one will make sure you are in a position to take care of yourself long after they are gone. Some tasks, such as cultivating new donors, making an ask, or closing a gift are better done by permanent staff or committed volunteers. Counsel may coach you or even go along on these calls, but someone who’s sticking around needs to be involved as well.
My friend nodded and considered what I said. She’ll think about it and talk with her executive director and board chair to decide what they really need – or don’t.
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