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What's the Difference Between Coaching and Consulting?

The following table from the Support Center for Nonprofit Management explains some of the differences between consulting and coaching.

ConsultantCoach
Even when one person is the main client contact, the consultant usually works with more than one person, often in a team, group, board, or department Works on a one-to-one basis; may coach more than one person in an organization, individually
Structures projects for specific deliverable or result, which the consultant is primarily responsible for Supports the client to achieve her or his own result or outcome
Usually problem-focused, i.e., identifies and tries to correct problems or weaknesses Builds on the client's strengths
Regarded as the "expert" who will solve problems (the magic bullet) Enables the client to solve problems or change things for the better
Consultant brings technical expertise to advise on solutions Coach brings relationship expertise to support the client's solutions
If behavior change is needed, consultant generally does not get involved in it A focus on individual and interpersonal dynamics supports behavior change
Gathers data and reports on what needs to be done Facilitates growth
Time-limited; generally short-term and project-oriented results Occurs over a period of time that generally involves renewable contracts; focused on long-term results
Provides information Promotes self-discovery
Goals generally related to programs and funding Values-based goal setting
Requires limited commitment from client to implement Maximizes client's commitment to implement solutions

The Coaching and Philanthropy Project done by Compasspoint Nonprofit Services in California has demonstrated the power of coaching in nonprofits.  A study done by Compasspoint with 25 executive directors found that coaching improved leadership skills by:

  • Increasing confidence in exercising leadership
  • Improving ability to connect with the organization’s vision
  • Increasing confidence in leading the organization toward fulfilling the vision

It increased management skills by:

  • Increasing task completion and productivity
  • Improving personnel management skills
  • Fostering better relationships with staff and Board of Directors (e.g.,communication skills)

Compasspoint has developed three action guides – for funders, nonprofits, and coaches. Wondering if coaching is for you or need help selecting a coach? Check out the Coaching Readiness Questionnaire and the Compasspoint Guide to Selecting a Nonprofit Coach in this Coaching and Philanthropy Action Guide for Nonprofits.