What to Use Consultants For

Dear Kim,

We have been given $1000 worth of time with a well known fundraising consultant in our community. The problem is that we don’t know what to use our consultant for. Can you help?
—Need Consulting Consultant Consultation

Dear Need 3C,

The short answer to your question would be to sit down with your consultant and ask him or her to tell you all the ways she or he can be helpful to your group. Ask this person to tell you how they have helped other groups of your size, issue, age, or whatever. Make sure your consultant knows why you were given $1000 to use her/him. Find out how much time $1000 buys, and in what increments. For example, some consultants have a 30 minute minimum, which means if you call them with a five minute question, they charge you for 30 minutes. Some consultants charge for their time from the moment they leave their office until the moment they return. If your organization is one hour away, you are paying for two hours that you are not using. Some consultants are available on a few minutes notice, while appointments with others may take several days or weeks. So , find out the scope of the work the consultant can provide and the groundrules.

The longer answer is the following list of things fundraising consultants can often be asked to do for you. The most important thing to remember is that you can ask you consultant to do anything with regard to fundraising for your organization and let that person tell you whether he or she can do it or not.

Things consultants can do:

1. Review all proposals, letters, brochures and so on before they are printed or sent out. Sometimes consultants help develop or write materials

2. Train board members in how to ask for money or other aspects of fundraising

3. Review your current fundraising efforts and suggest changes

4. Help you create a fundraising plan

5. Suggest foundations or corporate sources of funding, or other sources of funding depending on the knowledge of the consultant

6. Listen to you complain and be sympathetic

7. Help you get ready for a major donor solicitation or a foundation site visit

8. Help you plan a special event (some consultants can do a lot of this work as event coordinators)

9. Help you evaluate the success of any fundraising strategy and suggest changes for the future

10. Help you find a good database or evaluate your existing database

11. Help the board of directors decide what kind of people they need to recruit on to the board, what kind of agreements they need to make with each other about fundraising, and what kind of structure will work best for them

12. Discuss or even mediate difficult personnel problems or board/staff conflict

13. Help delineate the work of the Executive Director, Development Director, other staff and board members

14. Help your organization develop a strategic plan or evaluate an existing plan

15. Audit your fundraising efforts over the past several years and provide a report on what you are doing well and what you need to change (this will cost more than $1000)

16. Conduct a feasibility study for a capital or endowment campaign (this will cost way more than $1000). The consultant could help you decide whether or not to conduct a feasibility study.

17. And much more.

You might find that a logical first step is asking the consultant to conduct an initial needs assessment with your organization, to figure out how you can best use their services. Good luck and happy consultations.
—Kim