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January 20, 2022
How to Work with a Nonprofit Fundraising Consultant
By Sandra Davis

Sandra Davis
Sandra Davis

If your nonprofit is about to start working with a fundraising consultant for the first time, you may be wondering how you can make the most out of this investment.

Whether you’ve hired a consultant to help conduct a feasibility study ahead of a capital campaign or craft an all-inclusive fundraising strategy, there are a few important things to keep in mind as you collaborate with your nonprofit consultant:

  1. Create open and honest lines of communication.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  3. Plan to use your new strategies sustainably.

As Donorly’s fundraising consultant guide explains, it’s important to find someone who’s the right fit for your nonprofit’s needs before you decide to hire anyone. This allows you to create a strong relationship right off the bat and get the most out of your investment. This way, you’ll be able to receive relevant, effective advice based on the consultant’s experiences and areas of expertise.

If you’re still in the consultant research phase, check out Double the Donation’s ranking of top fundraising consultants to find one that matches your requirements. Read on for tips for working with your consultant once you’ve solidified your partnership.

1. Create open and honest lines of communication.

Your consultant will need to meet with key stakeholders and leaders within your organization to conduct an assessment of what’s going well and what needs improvement. You’ll need to communicate frequently and openly with them to facilitate this process and provide them with the resources they need to make accurate recommendations.

Create a check-in schedule or other communication guidelines to foster frequent communication. Also, as you collaborate with your consultant, make sure you’re honest with them about where your nonprofit stands and where you think you could use some help. It will make it much easier for them to diagnose your weak points and craft relevant solutions.

Remember that your fundraising consultant is a professional, and they’ve probably seen it all before. No matter what state your fundraising strategy is in, you should share it all with your consultant so they can help you get to where you want to be.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Even though the fundraising consultant is the specialist you brought in to help you create a better strategy, it’s ultimately your call when it comes to implementing their advice. As your consultant lays out the game plan, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification when needed. It’s much better to work with the consultant and get your questions answered upfront rather than stay quiet and perpetuate the confusion.

Remember that hiring a consultant is a financial investment for your organization, so you want to see the greatest return on your investment. If they recommend something you don’t think will necessarily be the best path for your nonprofit, or you’re confused about something they’ve suggested, make your hesitations known right away.

This isn’t to say you should ignore the consultant’s recommendations after all, they are experienced professionals, and your organization hired them for a reason. Rather, just remember that this relationship is a two-way street.

3. Plan to use your new strategies sustainably.

After your consultant has diagnosed your organization’s areas for improvement, they’ll provide you with a game plan for immediate and long-term solutions. Many consultants also stick around throughout the implementation process as you start to enact their recommendations.

However, remember that your fundraising specialist won’t be around forever. As you work with your consultant, make sure they leave you with a set of scalable strategies that remain relevant and impactful as your organization grows and changes.

For instance, let’s say you’ve brought on a fundraising consultant to help your organization create a plan for cultivating better relationships with major donors. In this case, you’ll want to ensure that your consultant provides a research-driven, sustainable strategy for stewarding major donors in the future. This might include prospect research guidelines that can help you continuously identify prospective major donors.

Even if you’ve hired a consultant to help with a campaign that has a defined timeline, such as a capital campaign, the valuable insights and resources you gain from your work together can be used to inform future fundraising efforts.

By following these tips, you can achieve the greatest ROI for your consultant engagement. When you have a relationship built on trust and open communication, you can reap the greatest benefits from your partnership and gain valuable insight that lasts for years to come.

Sandra Davis, founder and president of Donorly, during the last 30 years has consulted on numerous capital campaigns, led strategic planning and feasibility study efforts, and managed board development and recruitment efforts, planned giving, special events, and annual giving programs.

September 2021

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