May, 2004Nonprofits Hiring Consultants and
Consultants Accepting Clients…we forgetthat most issues have two sides. For
example, how does a Consultant evaluate the potential of a new client and how
does a Nonprofit or Foundation evaluate the potential of a new consultant. Take
a look at both sides, be fair and see what we come up with. But remember to
trust your gut instincts.
Finding Consultants for Nonprofits and Foundations
Hiring a consultant whether they are grant writers, fundraisers or direct mail and marketing professionals is like inviting a person/group to your home for an extended vacation. A good and close working relationship is imperative if you are going to accomplish what you need to do in a timely fashion.
So, how do you find a good consultant?
Ask for referrals from your colleagues. Especially from those colleagues who have similar needs to that of your organization. We think it would be wise to interview at least 3 companies before you commit to any of them. You might find that none of them are appropriate for your organization and have to start over. Remember that every variable from pricing to procedure can vary tremendously. The most reasonable might in all reality be the best. Trained and tenured professionals are wonderful to find, but remember that here in the United States we have access to terrific young people who are being trained at the college level to take on the career of a nonprofit professional.Ask for references and some example case studies detailing their accomplishments. In other words, let them show you what they've done. Ask for success stories and then follow up on investigating them. If your potential consultants are young, ask for references from their professors and any mentors they may have.
Find consultants who have expertise in exactly what your organization provides, or at least something related. You want them to be able to get up to speed on your projects as quickly as possible.
A consultant should come and go. Remember that they are not permanent fixtures and are not on salary.
Consultants Finding and Accepting Clients
Finding a good client is just as tough. Reliability and commitment to goal are two very important traits to look for in clients. A client who just tries to give you carte blanche is not a good leader. And, they are not spending their money wisely if they do not give direction.
Ask around about potential clients. What you learn might hurt, but it's better to find out first before you make a commitment that you will ultimately be unable to keep. Ouch!
Conduct a thorough interview with them to identify their goals. Make sure you have the ability to help them with these goals. Also make sure they are attainable, specific, and can be achieved within a certain time frame. Time is of the essence.
Make sure they have a mission statement and a business plan. And, if they don't let them know that each must be written before you can help them. And, if you have the skills to create them, help them identify their concrete goals before you go any further. Vague is bad.Let them know that they are and integral part of the deal. You need their time and expertise to make magic. Necessary information should be easily accessible to you. Your time is valuable.