How to Tell if and when You Need a Fundraising Consultant

Who is a fundraising consultant?

A fundraising consultant is an individual who is well-versed in the fine art of fundraising. They know all the ins and outs of what needs to be done, they know what works best, and they will be familiar with all of the various permits or licenses that you may need to obtain.

They have all the necessary contacts with fundraising providers, and they will know where you can get the best deal.

Another important role of the fundraising consultant is one of public relations. Your consultant should also have contacts with the local media, and should be helpful in getting the word out to the public about your fundraising event.

A consultant can be useful in creating a greater sense of professionalism within your organization, and in creating a positive public opinion of your mission. They can bring in new ideas and concepts that you may not have considered.

But, depending your organization, your budget, and the scope of your fundraiser, a consultant may or may not be in order. Keep in mind that the fundraising consultant is a professional, and charges a professional fee.

This is what they do for a living, so they're not likely to give you a special rate because your group is a worthy cause. All of their clients run worthy causes. The consultant can be expensive, and you will probably have to pay a retainer up front before any fundraising begins.

A professional fundraising consultant usually works on an hourly or daily fee basis, and will not work on a contingency or percentage basis. As such, there are no real guarantees that you will get a return on your investment, and so make sure to do plenty of due diligence on your consultant ahead of time.

Talk to other organizations that have used that consultant's services, and ask them if they felt it was worthwhile. For a major fundraiser, it may be money very well spent.

Do you need a fundraising consultant?

If your organization does not have a lot of experience in fundraising, a consultant may be very well worthwhile. Having a consultant that is outside of your organization is often beneficial, because they will have a third-party perspective that is not biased.

Your consultant will help you with overall strategy, with making connections and facilitating introductions, and with planning. But as far as the day-to-day details, and the actual fundraising itself, they will leave that to you.

The consultant can be essential in training volunteers and creating fundraising strategies, and even in doing research for various projects.

Keep in mind though, that your consultant, although they may be well-connected, won't be doing any of the actual fundraising, so don't count on them to bring in money directly. Your level of fundraising will increase as a result of their strategic help.

If you want to venture into a new area of fundraising, such as online fundraising, the consultant can be essential in getting this set up. Find a consultant that specializes in that area. Similarly, larger non-profit organizations often use consultants to help in seeking qualified executive staff members.

If you do decide to hire a consultant, before you bring them in, decide on some specific results that you want. Just bringing in a consultant because you want to improve your fundraising is far too vague.

Get your committee together and work out some specific action points; for example, you may want your consultant to help you improve your messaging, pinpoint higher-value donors, or create more innovative campaigns.

These specific points should be outlined in a contract. And although no consultant can guarantee a specific level of results, outlining your expectations ahead of time will avoid any misunderstanding.

Don't assume that your organization or fundraising project is too small to benefit from a consultant. While larger organizations and broader campaigns often make good use of full-time, on-site consulting personnel, some consulting firms offer assistance on a much smaller scale.

In some cases, just a few hours a week will be all you need to help point you in the right direction and create a more effective strategy.

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