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5 Key Reasons and Strategies for Hiring a Fundraising Consultant

Posted Sep 23, 2022 04:05 PM
Nonprofits are resourceful, but sometimes having an extra hand with more in-depth expertise can help you work out kinks in your organization’s strategy. Just as you invest in your organization by training your board and acquiring great employees, hiring a fundraising consultant is an incredible way to invest in your nonprofit’s success.

However, you may still be on the fence as to whether working with a fundraising consultant is worth it or not. Let's settle the score by walking you through five reasons you should consider moving forward with investing in consulting services.

  1. You want to breathe new life into your fundraising strategy
  2. You want to discover more major donors
  3. You’re launching a capital campaign
  4. You need to temporarily fill an open role while you work on hiring
  5. Your board needs to be re-engaged

1. You want to breathe new life into your fundraising strategy

If you’re caught in a loop of launching the same fundraisers year after year, you and your donors are probably ready for a new strategy. It can be daunting to dive into a new fundraising approach (and you might not know where to start), but a fundraising consultant often has years of experience planning and executing lucrative fundraisers.

Fundraising consultants often have specific types of fundraising that they focus on, so be sure you hire the right consultant for your needs. If you aren’t sure where to start, here are some types of fundraisers that nonprofit consultants frequently specialize in:

  • Peer-to-peer fundraising
  • High-end fundraising events
  • Capital campaigns

Nonprofit consultants can also be a great resource if you’re trying to expand your reach to neighboring states or wherever your mission calls. Setting up the correct legal paperwork can be difficult if you try to do it on your own. Nonprofit consultants trained in charitable solicitation registration can help you efficiently navigate the registration process so you can get started on expanding your reach as quickly as possible.

2. You want to discover more major donors

Major donors are fundamental to progressing your mission, as their contributions are usually the largest and most impactful, especially for larger projects like capital campaigns. Cultivating and stewarding major donors can take a lot of time, so it can be helpful to streamline your approach with outside help.

Nonprofit consultants can help strengthen your major giving program by adding the finesse of in-depth industry knowledge to your strategy.

Hiring a consultant to discover more major donors means you can continue fundraising without having to relocate too many of your resources to through prospect research. They will also have access to dedicated prospect research tools, meaning they can dig through data and get through the grunt work of analysis for you.

Without a nonprofit consultant, you will likely have to invest in prospect research tools and spend time sorting through records yourself—which can be costly and ineffective if you don’t know what to look for.

3. You’re launching a capital campaign

Capital campaigns are key to evolving your nonprofit to the next stage by increasing your ability to work toward your cause. These campaigns require immense coordination throughout your organization, and it can be challenging to find your footing if you’re new to such large-scale projects.

Hiring a nonprofit consultant can help you start off on the right foot, as they’ll assist you in conducting a feasibility study for your campaign. From there, they can help you streamline your planning period and implement a seamless fundraising strategy. Consultants will know how to create plans for your multi-year and multi-phase capital campaign, which will save you from the pain of trial and error.

Here are some of the ways a consultant can help guide your through the phases of a capital campaign:

  • Planning. Nonprofit consultants can help you test the viability of your campaign by conducting interviews with your major stakeholders during a feasibility study. They can also assist in creating the long-term plan for the capital campaign, including how to string the phases together with one cohesive goal.
  • Quiet phase. This phase should raise about 50-70% of all donations, so having your consultant hone in on major donor research and outreach is crucial.
  • Kickoff. A consultant will know how to engage donors by hosting an event that draws press and public attention.
  • Public phase. The best consultants will help you see the campaign through to completion, so they won’t slow the pace when it comes to fundraising from your larger community of donors.

Because capital campaigns can span several years, hiring a consultant can help the campaign stay on track without putting your other projects on hold. By keeping your other operations active, you’ll also have up-to-date information to help promote your campaign through telling stories about your nonprofit and its day-to-day work.

4. You need to temporarily fill an open role while you work on hiring

Whether you’re expanding your team or are looking to fill an open role, a nonprofit consultant can be the perfect fit to step in and fill the gaps in your operations while you look for a new in-house hire. They'll be familiar with how nonprofits work, so they can fill the role and keep things moving, all while helping you with the hiring and onboarding process. You will also be able to get back on track with your workflow, as opposed to scrambling to make up for the tasks that wouldn’t be getting completed without someone filling the open role.

Here are a few roles a nonprofit consultant could fill while you’re hiring:

  • Major gifts officer. They can research prospective major donors and initiate those conversations for your organization.
  • Fundraising strategist. Planned events and fundraisers can’t come to a stop because of a gap in staffing. Nonprofit consultants will get you back on track without skipping a beat.
  • Grant writing. Avoid missing out on grants due to an open role by hiring a consultant to assist you in writing grant proposals. With their expertise they could find new grants to apply for as well!
  • Development officer. Don’t let open roles slow your growth. Consultants that offer transitional staffing can give you the bandwidth to continue research, donor outreach, and other development initiatives.

5. Your board needs to be re-engaged

It can be difficult to know how to mediate boardroom conflict or boost board engagement, especially if your board is in a state of transition. Success requires a well-communicated strategy and clear roles for board members. A nonprofit consultant can evaluate the effectiveness of each of these areas and work with the clarity to ensure effective metrics are in place.

Your consultant may, for example, host training meetings to re-inspire your board members by teaching them about their role and how they can make the most impact.

Getting Started: How to Hire a Fundraising Consultant

Clearly, working with a nonprofit fundraising consultant can help you strengthen your nonprofit’s strategy in a number of different areas, but it is critical that you hire the right person (or persons).

According to Donorly’s guide to hiring a fundraising consultant, these five steps will help you make a successful hire:

1. Define your needs

Before you start looking, consider what role you would like this person to fill within your organization. There should be an end goal met by the time the consultant leaves. Consider if you’re looking for someone to help you expand your organization, train new staff, or to implement new fundraising strategies.

Speak with your board and leadership to outline the objectives and deliverables you would like the consultant to complete. This can help you define success when looking for a consultant, adhere to a budget that everyone is comfortable with, and give you a better idea of candidates your leadership are more likely to approve.

2. Create an RFP

A request for proposal (RFP) should define the needs of your organization and convey the engagement expectations for potential consultants. The RFP will help consultants pitch a strategy that is specific to your needs.

Include some of your leadership while drafting the request to make it as complete as possible. You’ll need to include background information, the project’s timeline, your goals, how success will be measured, and deadlines for proposal submissions.

3. Research your consultants

Once your goals and needs are defined, you can begin researching consultants who are experienced in your desired service.

Speak with your colleagues and partner organizations to see if they have any recommendations. To narrow your list, look for consultants that describe their guiding values and fundraising philosophies. This can help you evaluate if they will align with your values and mission.

Once you have a shortlist of candidates that you’re interested in, submit your RFP!

4. Interview candidates

Once your top candidates have your RFP, give them about two weeks to draft a proposal, or as much time as you think it would take to create a high quality proposal.

Ask your candidates for references, so you can connect with their peers or previous clients while waiting for their proposals.

5. Review proposals and choose your candidate

Create a committee to review the candidate proposals and references. Choose one to two of the standout proposals and work with the consultant to make alterations as needed to fit the specific needs of your organization.

Once you send your revisions to the candidates, keep an eye out for how open-minded they are about your suggestions. The best fundraising consultants are flexible and open to workshopping their strategies to help your nonprofit reach its unique goals. Based on their responses, choose the candidate to hire, sign a contract, and start working with your new partner!