Nonprofit consultants can make a beneficial addition to your organization’s staff. No matter how talented your team is, some tasks and projects could use an outside expert. Consultants can be especially helpful for special initiatives, key fundraising campaigns, or anything that falls outside your team’s typical skill set.
Many nonprofits hesitate to hire a consultant, mostly because of cost. However, you don’t have to break the bank to get the help you need when you need it. You can also find a consultant for virtually every facet of your organization. Below are some of the ways a nonprofit consultant can help your organization—and how you can find the right one to accomplish your goals.
What Can a Nonprofit Consultant Do for You?
Fundraising is not a choice for nonprofits; it is a necessity. However, how does an organization figure out the best fundraising approaches? Plus, how can it fundraise and keep operations running smoothly? A fundraising consultant could be a huge help. For instance, a fundraising consultant can help with:
- Setting goals
- Identifying prospective donors
- Planning campaigns
- Meeting benchmarks
- Preparing case statements and fundraising appeals
- Setting up social media campaigns
Nonprofit fundraising consultants can help with long-term initiatives or short-term campaigns. They can help you analyze donor data and leverage that information to plan future programs.
Writing grants requires a fairly specific skill set, including excellent research and writing skills. Without an experienced grant writer, your organization’s proposal can lose focus and clarity. When there’s essential funding on the line, you want to make sure your proposal is outstanding. A grant writing consultant can:
- Search for appropriate funding sources, such as foundations
- Advise on best practices for future writing
- Write grants as needed
- Provide industry expertise
Don’t risk creating a hodge-podge proposal by involving a team of inexperienced writers: a grant writing consultant will leverage all their expertise and experience to generate a polished result.
Having a custom website, managing an array of data, and ensuring reliable software and hardware for your organization’s operations are all essential. However, it can be hard to handle all those pieces of the technology puzzle without specialized help. Take advantage of a technology consultant’s services. They can help you:
- Establish ongoing computer support
- Implement and utilize data analysis
- Create secure and streamlined financial systems
- Establish donor support systems
- Advise about social media platforms
Most of all, this kind of expert support can decrease cost and downtime overall.
Other Consultation Services
Does your nonprofit have all of the above areas covered? There are plenty of other specialized consultants who can help improve your nonprofit’s operation and effectiveness. Just some of these other services include experts in:
- Human Resources
- Board building and leadership workshops
- Legal services
- Volunteer onboarding
- Special events
Many organizations have plenty of ideas to improve some facet of their operation but don’t feel like they have the appropriate staff. Others may want to launch a new initiative but don’t have the expertise to make it happen. With a consultant’s help, you can take advantage of specialized services without expanding your core staff.
How to Hire a Consultant
The great thing about hiring consultants is that they’re different from traditional employees. Rather than adding to your full-time staff, you can hire a contractor on an ad-hoc basis or keep them on a retainer.
Retainer Consultation Services
Some nonprofits retain the services of their consultants, paying them a specific rate to call on them when needed. If you have similar ongoing consulting needs, this can be a great way to stay on top of projects without committing to a full-time salary.
Some nonprofits hire consultants for specific projects or purposes, such as for a particular grant proposal or a unique fundraising campaign. If your organization only needs occasional help or seasonal support, this can be the most cost-effective approach.
Whichever way you choose, it takes less time to onboard or fire a consultant. Turning to a consultant may produce faster results and require less commitment for even the most cash-strapped nonprofits.
How Much Do Consultants Cost?
Like most services, consultation fees vary based on some factors. These can include region, industry, level of expertise, and the scope and complexity of the project. Costs will also vary depending on whether your organization hires someone for a flat project fee or services by the hour.
Hiring a consultant to complete a grant proposal, for instance, can start at a couple of hundred dollars or run into the thousands. You can expect to pay fundraising consultants an average of $100 per hour for their services—with some charging upwards of $150 per hour.
How to Choose the Right Consultant
You’ve decided to hire a consultant and have done some research. Once you’ve identified some possible choices, it’s time to pick someone. The most important thing is to know what you want to accomplish. There’s no sense in going through the trouble of hiring a consultant if you don’t have well thought out goals.
Once you have all your objectives nailed down, be ready to ask plenty of questions. Get as much relevant information as you can from each candidate and be sure to request references from past clients. Depending on the complexity of the project, there can be many variables that change throughout the process. However, you should still agree on a basic outline of requirements, timelines, and milestones.
Personality and organizational fit also matter; if the consultant doesn’t understand your organization, it may not be the best fit. Seeking consultants who are recommended by industry peers is an excellent way to find the right person. However, there are plenty of other places to begin your search.
Some nonprofits use RFPs (Request for Proposal) to find their consultants. That requires even more pre-work to formulate a clear and concise RFP to which consultants can respond. RFPs still require narrowing a pool of prospective consultants to which the RFP is circulated. The upside of RFPs lies in the fact that you then have several detailed proposals and a range of rates to consider.
Where to Find a Consultant
The internet is a great place to begin your consultant search. Resources like the Fundraising Consultants and Resource Directory and the Association of Consultants to Nonprofits can help you find highly rated consultants who can help your organization.
You can also find consultants who specialize in your organization’s industry or niche. Graham-Pelton, for instance, specializes in education, healthcare, social change, and faith-based services. Campbell & Company focuses on sectors including arts and culture, healthcare, environment, and human services.
It can be overwhelming when you decide to hire a consultant—as is finding the right person (or team) for the job. However, the benefits of a consultant can far exceed the challenges, especially when streamlining your technology, increasing your fundraising, and winning more grants. Once you’ve determined your most important goals, you can find a consultant to help you meet them quickly and efficiently.
- How Can I Become a Nonprofit Fundraising Consultant, Philanthropy News Digest
- Budgeting for a Consultant, The Denver Foundation
- How to Choose and Work with Technology Consultants, Techsoup.Org