Tips on selecting the right consultant

Your consultant should provide critical support and guidance on managing a campaign successfully! Campaigns require a high level of attention and support over and above the fund development necessary for annual operations.

Adding a capital campaign consultant provides your organization with the strategy and know-how to accomplish goals and hands-on assistance throughout the entire campaign.  Below are some tips to find the consultant who is right for your organization:

TIP #1: DETERMINE WHAT SERVICES YOU NEED

You can’t start searching for a consultant without knowing what you first want, but having an idea of what services you need will help narrow down your search.

Before you start looking, it is important to create a list of areas where you want help and prioritize those needs. When you write your list, there are two questions you should ask yourself:

  • What level of involvement do I want the consultant to have? A consultant can help you with your entire campaign (from start to finish!), or they can simply provide an advisory role.

  • Do you lack any resources for your capital campaign? If you don’t have experience performing a feasibility study, for instance, then that should be high on your priority list.

Additionally, you need to make sure that what you want aligns with what a capital campaign consultant can do.

Some of the most common services a consultant can offer include:

  • Performing a feasibility study

  • Creating and/or revising your case for support

  • Researching prospective donors

  • Training your leadership and board members

  • And so much more!

What should you take away? Don’t start looking for a consultant without evaluating your needs first. This way, you’ll only consider consultants that can help you with the most important aspects of your campaign.

TIP #2: FIND SOMEONE WITH CAPITAL CAMPAIGN EXPERIENCE

If this is your first time launching a capital campaign (or your second, third, even fourth!), you should hire a consultant with experience. Someone with expertise provides knowledge on capital campaigns and established strategies that will increase the chances your campaign will be successful.

Since a consultant can’t guarantee success (even though they can increase your chances!), hiring an experienced professional is one way to ensure a return on your investment.

What should you take away? When you hire someone that knows the ins and outs of capital campaigns, they can provide you with solutions that you would have never considered on your own. Find a capital campaign consultant that fits your organization's personality.

TIP #3: CHOOSE A CONSULTANT THAT’S THE PERFECT MATCH

When you hire a consultant, you’ll be working with them to plan your capital campaign, which could take months. That’s a lot of time and communication! Therefore, you should pick a consultant who you get along well with.

Moreover, it’s crucial that you pick a consultant that’s a good match for your nonprofit. It’s likely that the consultant will be working with multiple people on your team to bring together every aspect of your campaign.

If possible, you should meet with your favorite consultants in person to get a feel for their personality and approach. When searching for a consultant that meshes well with your nonprofit’s culture, look for someone that is:

  • Passionate about your cause. If your consultant feels strongly about the work you do, they’ll be more invested in making your campaign successful.

  • Open to your feedback. Of course, not every suggestion a consultant makes will be the right choice for your organization. You should work with someone that takes your feedback and makes the necessary changes.

  • Happy to work in your office. Your consultant should want to come to your office to meet and work with your staff.

  • Your relationship with a consultant doesn’t end after the campaign is over. A partnership with a capital campaign consultant can be valuable if you ever need help with other fundraising efforts. 

It’s important to pick someone you’re happy working with for a long time.

What should you take away? You should pick a consultant based on more than their skill. The consultant you hire should be passionate about your cause and easy to work with.

TIP #4: FACTOR THE COST INTO YOUR FINAL DECISION

When you’re searching for a consultant, you should consider how much it’s going to cost. How much a consultant charges is important because it will factor into your capital campaign budget.

Consultants follow different guidelines for how they charge for their services. It’s up to you to understand what a consultant charges before you hire them.

Typically, consultants will either charge an hourly rate, a flat fee, or a retainer fee (an upfront cost for large projects) depending on the scope of your project. However, the price of a consultant might include more than just their services. For example, you may be charged for the consultant’s hotel, food, and travel expenses.

As you compare the costs for different consultants, here are a few things to consider:

  • Level of experience: If a consultant has years of experience launching successful campaigns, they will likely charge more for their services.
  • Capital campaign budget: Your budget will play a huge part in what consultant you choose. 
  • Location: The location of the consulting firm may affect how much they charge.

When you total the cost, ensure all fees associated with hiring a consultant are included. This way, you have a better idea of how much it will affect your capital campaign budget.

What should you take away? There are no set guidelines when it comes to how much a consultant will charge. Be sure to get all that information ahead of time and be mindful of your capital campaign budget.

TIP #5: ASK YOUR TOP CHOICES TO INTERVIEW

Once you’ve cut your list of potential candidates to 2 or 3 consultants, it’s time to put them to the test!

To get a feel for how each consultant operates, you can ask them to meet in-person and illustrate how they can assist your organization.  Ensure that you give each consultant equal amount of time to present and the same people are at every presentation.

Once you’ve heard presentations and received proposals, it’s time to make your final decision. Here are a few things you should think about when you make a choice:

  • Did they provide solutions for the problems you mentioned? Was the consultant addressing the concerns that you needed help with? Or did they just suggest general strategies?

  • Was the information vague or detailed? Of course, they don’t want to give all their secrets away before you hire them, but did they provide you with information that is helpful to your nonprofit?

  • Did the consultant sound confident when presenting their ideas? It’s important to hire a consultant that is confident in what they’re suggesting.

  • Another tip to keep in mind is that everyone who is a part of the decision-making process should be available for every presentation or have access to the documents so that everyone can make an informed choice.

What should you take away? Requesting a proposal is a major step in the hiring process because it gives you a preview of what it will be like working with a particular consultant.

Now that you have five tips to help you find a consultant, hiring the right one shouldn’t be too difficult. Focus on what’s most important for your capital campaign and pick a consultant who can address those needs.