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7 Tips For Hiring a Fundraising Consultant

12 min read
October 14, 2020
Jeff Gordy headshot
Jeff Gordy
fundraising consultant: people writing at a table

A fundraising consultant, sometimes called a professional fundraiser, is a seasoned professional in the nonprofit world. They’ve usually got several years of experience under their belts running campaigns and managing donors for nonprofits. Many nonprofits will consider hiring a fundraising consultant to have that expertise at their disposal for their next big campaign.

What Does a Professional Fundraiser Do? 

Fundraising consultants can help you run your fundraiser from start to finish or complete a few tasks when you need them. A fundraising consultant can also be your guide when you’re looking to reevaluate your fundraising strategy.

What Percentage Do Fundraising Consultants Take?

According to The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Code of Ethical Standards, consultants should work on an agreed-upon fixed professional fundraising fee basis or on an hourly basis. The fixed fee or hourly rate is generally based on the scope and complexity of the fundraising project.

Identifying the estimated costs generally starts with a conversation and the request for a proposal that includes the consultant’s estimated fee.

With so many different fundraising consultants offering services to your nonprofit, hiring a professional fundraiser can be difficult. But, before you can take advantage of all that a consultant has to offer, you need to hire the right one. 

If you need help navigating your search for the right professional fundraiser, we’ve got you covered! We’ll discuss seven tips that your nonprofit can use when hiring a professional fundraiser.

  1. Determine Your Needs
  2. Pick a Consultant That Understands Fundraising Software
  3. Consider Your Workplace Operations
  4. Ask Fundraising Consultants for References
  5. Choose a Professional Fundraiser That Fits Your Nonprofit’s Culture
  6. Consider the Cost of Hiring a Consultant
  7. Request Proposals Before Finalizing Your Decision

Keep reading to learn more!

Tip #1: Determine Your Needs

It will be challenging to look for a consultant if you don’t know what you need. To start your search for a consultant, identify the fundraising areas you need help with and what services a consultant can provide.

When you know exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to narrow down your options to search for consultants that meet those needs. You probably have a general idea of what you need help with. Perhaps you’re looking to:

  • Start a capital campaign. Capital campaigns require a lot of preparation, and a consultant can help you organize your event and empower your board of directors. Plus, consultants can assist you throughout the campaign to ensure that your goals are met.
  • Plan a fundraising event. One of the most essential parts of a fundraising event is promotion. Think about it this way: If your supporters don’t know about your event, they can’t come. With a consultant’s help, you can create a communications plan to market your fundraiser and generate interest.
  • Improve your online donations. Donors are always looking for more convenient ways to give, which means that your nonprofit needs to stay up-to-date on the latest online and mobile donation trends. A consultant can help you find online giving platforms and teach you how to use your new software.
  • Learn more about your donors. Put all that donor data you’ve been collecting to use! If you’re not sure how to analyze all your information, consultants can help you focus on the most important data points and implement a strategy based on their findings.
  • Conduct a feasibility study. One of the most critical components of a capital campaign is the feasibility study. Think of the feasibility study as a focus group for your supporters that helps you determine if your campaign can reach its goals. Hiring a third-party professional like a consultant ensures that you get honest answers during the study.

Knowing this information will be helpful, but if you want to find the right consultant for your nonprofit, you’ll need to be more specific. Think about all the areas you need help with and create a list of priorities when it comes to your future fundraising consultant.

The level of involvement you want your consultant to have is also important. Are you looking for an expert that can help you plan a fundraiser from start to finish? Or are you looking for someone to fill in the gaps with the skills and resources your nonprofit doesn’t have?

Takeaway:  Don’t start your search without first knowing what services and level of involvement you want from your consultant. Without knowing where you need help, it will be hard to determine which consultant can best serve you.

Tip #2: Pick A Consultant That Understands Fundraising Software

Whether you’re looking for help with a fundraising event or prospect research, hiring a professional fundraiser with fundraising software knowledge should be a priority. Understanding software means that your consultant can analyze the information from your nonprofit CRM to create a better strategy for your organization.

You probably use fundraising software on a daily basis as a donor database to keep track of your donors’ information, your donor communications, and your fundraising efforts. It only makes sense that you should hire someone who knows how to use your software as well.

A consultant who understands fundraising software can help you: 

  • Manage your fundraising events.
  • Analyze your fundraising data to help you make improvements.
  • Gain a better understanding of your nonprofit’s previous strategies.

You’ll get the most out of hiring a fundraising consultant if they are skilled in the areas that directly relate to your nonprofit’s challenges. Additionally, if you need help finding a fundraising platform or looking for a new one, then the consultant can lead you in the right direction.

Takeaway: When you hire a consultant who knows fundraising software, they will have the experience you need to create a successful campaign.

Tip #3: Consider Your Workplace Operations

Whether your nonprofit operates in a remote, in-person, or hybrid model is an important factor in your search. If your nonprofit mostly operates in-person events and has a hyper-local donor base, it may be more important to you to hire a local fundraising consultant who can come work in person. Another benefit to hiring locally is that your fundraising consultant will have firsthand experience when it comes to the unique aspects of fundraising in your area, or may personally know of some major potential donors or corporate sponsorship opportunities.

If local operations are not an important aspect of your nonprofit’s success, the location of your fundraising consultant may not matter as much to you. You may choose to prioritize other levels of expertise in a professional fundraiser.

No matter what type of assistance you need, you’ll need to have a clear line of communication. Communication is important to help make sure that you’re on the same page. If both parties make the effort to communicate and update each other frequently, this can prevent many problems and disagreements.

Takeaway: Working with a consultant requires a lot of communication. It’s important that you can work with someone who meets your expectations on how you’ll communicate.

Tip #4: Ask Fundraising Consultants For References

Your professional fundraiser should have experience and knowledge in the areas where you need assistance. This is especially important because success can’t be guaranteed, even by the most prestigious consultants. What they can do is bring their years of experience to the table and suggest strategies that have worked in the past.

When you’re looking for an experienced consultant, ask your network. You may have connections that can refer you to a consultant who has provided them with good work in the past. By asking your connections in the nonprofit industry, your list of potential consultants will include fundraisers who have handled similar projects and nonprofits.

You can also search for fundraising organization sites to get an extensive list of consultants and consulting firms. Try Neon One’s Partner Directory of consultants you can trust.

Look for the consultants that offer the services you need and then ask them to provide references. That way, you can talk with a consultant’s past clients to see what their experience was like.

Talking to consultants’ references allows you to:

  • See what methods they use in practice.
  • Know if their past clients were happy.
  • Determine how the consultant communicates with clients.

If potential candidates don’t have contacts ready at their disposal, see if they have any case studies of their past work. You can gain similar knowledge of a consultant’s experience and approach with case studies.

Takeaway: Learning more about a consultant’s backgrounds will help you determine if they have the skills and experience to meet your priority list’s needs.

Which CRM is right for me? Take this 6-question quiz to get a customized list of CRM vendors that will best fit your nonprofit based on your budget, size, and functionality needs. Click on this image to take the quiz!
Which CRM is right for me? Take this 6-question quiz to get a customized list of CRM vendors that will best fit your nonprofit based on your budget, size, and functionality needs. Click on this image to take the quiz!

Tip #5: Hire a Professional Fundraiser That Matches Your Nonprofit’s Culture

Part of working well with your fundraising consultant is finding someone that you get along with. When you work with someone you trust, you’ll feel more comfortable asking questions and expressing your concerns.

Not only does a good working relationship help your partnership, but it also ensures that the consultant is invested in your fundraising.

If you want to look for a consultant that’s a good fit, look for someone that:

  • Shows interest in your cause. Working with a consultant that’s invested in your cause means that the consultant can see your nonprofit from your donors’ perspectives. This will be helpful when it comes to creating a strategy.
  • Can work directly with key team members. Your consultant will be part of your nonprofit’s existing team. All the key players must be on the same page.
  • Is open to your feedback. Not every suggestion a consultant makes will be the best fit for your nonprofit, and that’s okay! Hire a consultant who will listen to your concerns and is flexible enough to make the necessary changes.

Takeaway: Choose a consultant that is open to your feedback and is interested in your cause. These qualities will help make sure that the consultant you choose is the perfect fit.

Tip #6: Consider The Cost Of Hiring A Consultant

It’s important to be aware of the cost of hiring a professional fundraiser because you want to get the most return on your investment. There are no guidelines on how much a consultant can charge or the corresponding professional fundraiser fees. So the price will vary from one consultant to the next. 

Generally, a consultant will charge by the hour or through an upfront or fixed cost, like a flat fee or retainer fee. Additionally, you might have to factor in the price of a consultant’s hotel, food, and travel expenses.

When you start to budget for a consultant, three things should factor into your considerations:

  • The consultant’s level of experience. If you’re looking for a consultant with specific skills or experience, then you may have to pay more.
  • The consultant’s location. If you have to fly an out-of-state consultant in for an in-person fundraising event, that will increase your costs.
  • Your budget. If you’re looking for a consultant to help you with a fundraising campaign, then you probably have a maximum amount you want to spend to launch your fundraiser. Make sure that the cost to hire a consultant fits within your budget.

Takeaway: There are many factors that could increase your total cost of working with a fundraising consultant. Be sure to consider all factors when determining if a consultant is in your budget.

Tip #7: Request Proposals Before Finalizing Your Decision

Once you’ve narrowed down your options to a few fundraising consultants, it’s time to request proposals. A proposal is a way for you to learn more about potential consultants and how they come up with solutions.

Additionally, you’ll get a taste of how the consultant operates. The proposal can be an in-person presentation or a document that the consultant sends out to your nonprofit.

If you want to request a proposal from your top fundraising consultant candidates, here is what you can do: 

  • Pick a deadline. You need to give your consultants time to create proposals that are specific to your nonprofit’s needs. Three to four weeks is a good time frame to give them to prepare.
  • Decide how consultants will submit their proposals. Do you want the solutions presented in-person or sent to you in a document? Keep in mind that,  once you decide to receive a proposal, it’s important to request the same type of proposal from every consultant.
  • Have everyone watch or read each proposal. If multiple people make decisions at your nonprofit, make sure that everyone is present for each proposal. That way, you all can make an informed decision.

Takeaway: The proposal is the final step when it comes to hiring a fundraising consultant. Make sure that you keep things fair and ensure that each consultant has the same opportunities.

Once you’ve received or listened to all the proposals, it’s time to make your decision! Don’t get too distracted by flashy presentations and well-designed documents.

Instead, focus on the solutions that each consultant provides. Ask yourself if the consultant offered suggestions for your specific challenges. Also, how well do you feel those suggestions will work for your nonprofit?

If you want to hire a professional fundraising consultant, these tips will help you find the right one for your nonprofit. Just remember that it’s up to you to figure out what you need for your fundraiser before you start searching. Check out our collaborative network of trusted partners committed to your organization’s growth.

Learn More About Neon CRM

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