I get asked this question so often by potential nonprofit clients: “Why should we hire a consultant instead of hiring an in-house employee?” The truth is that we are often brought in to help when an employee vacancy arises in a key fundraising role. In other cases, The Olympia Collective becomes the choice instead of creating an in-house employee role for the first time. In order to find out if this is the right choice for any client, I suggest that they outline what is most important for them as a first step to see if an independent contractor could be an option. For example, does the client need to dictate when and how the work is completed? If that is the case, the only option is an in-house fundraising employee. But if the client is open to having its needs met in a new way, hiring an independent contractor specializing in nonprofit fundraising can open up a whole new world of opportunities.
There are several reasons hiring a fundraising consultant can work better for the organization than hiring or replacing an in-house employee.
Below are a list of scenarios that have defined our former or current clients when they found us. Do any of these sound familiar?
You are not generating enough revenue yet to even hire a part-time employee to do the work
The number of hours you need per week is too low to necessitate an employee position
The level of experience you need to get the results you want are higher than any position parameters you have in house
You like the lower risk to you and your organization of hiring and managing a consultant versus an employee
You like the lower cost of a consultant when compared to an employee with benefits
You feel an urgency for results and like the speed at which we can begin work and make an impact compared to an employee that needs to be onboarded
You don’t have any experience in house to onboard, train, or coach your employees in the subject of fundraising
You don’t need to control when or how the fundraising work is done
You have a fundraising or other need that is time-limited and/or temporary
We care deeply about our clients and their specific situations that cause them to seek us out. All of our contracts provide clients extra peace of mind knowing you (or we) can terminate our services anytime with 30 days notice. Especially in times like these with economic concerns and new spikes of a global pandemic, a fundraising consultant can be the optimal choice. For those of you who have never considered this option, it is worth considering! There are many excellent consulting firms out there ready and waiting to help.
Ready to Try a Consultant? Here Are Three Strategies to Find The Right One for You.
Everyone has heard of horror stories of consultants that didn’t work out. And on the nonprofit consulting side, we all have similar stories of clients who were not the right fit. Since our founding, we have learned from all of these situations. We offer these three pieces of advice to clients that will increase the likelihood that their next consulting partnership is a home run:
- Hire a consultant to first conduct a short-term written assessment of a critical area of the organization with no promise of continuing work. This not only allows them to get a sense of your situation, but gives you a clear feeling of what it is like to work with them. You can also easily see if they meet their own deadlines, present professionally, and attune quickly to the issues that need to be resolved. Even better, you see if they are a culture fit (and vice versa). I liken this scenario to asking for a test drive at a car dealership–you can really get a feel for what it is like to own the car by actually driving it first, by yourself, without the salesperson in the front seat.
- Only use consultants that are sourced from within your trusted network of colleagues. Then be sure to ask for and call the firm’s references as well. Leaning on those who already know you for their recommendations is a sure way to have a better fit from the beginning. Continuing the car example above, it’s like calling your friend who already owns that car to see how they like it and how it has performed for them to enhance your purchasing decision.
- Hire and select your consultant with the same rigor and process you use for in-house employees. Create a written description, screen for core values, have more than one person interview each firm, and involve your board, donors, and other stakeholders in the process. Very often, consultants are privy to challenges and information that is highly sensitive and confidential, so don’t forget to screen them just as well as you would a leadership team member. Consultants can present an easy and fast way to solve your problem, but, like a new Tesla, shouldn’t preclude you from using your head instead of following an emotional impulse to buy a shiny new toy.
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Founded and led by veteran nonprofit fundraiser Olympia Ammon, The Olympia Collective specializes in non-profit revenue generation, board & staff support, and data insights. We empower our clients to deliver maximum impact to the communities they serve.