What to Look For When Choosing a Fundraising Consulting Firm

Choosing the Right Fundraising Consultant

What to Look For When Choosing a Fundraising Consulting Firm

When gearing up for a new campaign, some nonprofits are skeptical about whether to use a fundraising consultant. They may be reluctant to spend extra budget dollars or to bring in people who aren’t native to their organization.

The decision to bring in outside counsel may seem intimidating. But weighing the costs and the benefits, outsourcing work means you can take time to focus on your priorities and responsibilities. 

A consulting company can help with identifying prospective investors and donors, goal-setting, and campaign messaging and implementation. They can also help you form an outreach marketing channel via social media and events. 

Hiring a fundraising consultant is an investment to boost your bottom line. If you’re willing to take the leap, the next step is to find a firm capable of delivering the value of that investment — and then some. 

To help you navigate this process, we’ve made a list of points you should keep in mind when choosing a nonprofit fundraising consultant. 

Finding the Right Fit

Before actively seeking a consulting firm, sit down with your team and board to outline your goals, budget, and expectations. Depending on the type of funding program you want to launch, your strategic plan could include multiple stages and time constraints. 

There are many types of fundraising, ranging from fundraising events to peer-to-peer fundraising to large capital campaigns. Identify what you want to accomplish, then find a firm that specializes in that approach.

If you want to pursue a capital campaign, we recommend looking for a firm that also has experience in feasibility studies and pre-campaign assessment. A feasibility study is the first step to raising money and is vitally important in determining the future success of your campaign. Using the same firm for the study and campaign has benefits in providing a seamless transition that your staff and investors will appreciate. 

After you have determined your specific needs, you may want to start drafting a Request for Proposal (RFP) if you plan to seek proposals from multiple firms. We often provide specific input on crafting an ideal RFP to nonprofits starting a search, to ensure they provide adequate information upfront that will lead to solid, on-target RFP responses. Feel free to contact us to discuss your specific needs if you would like individual input on this important step.

Consider the Firm’s Reputation

Ask around to see if other nonprofits had a good experience using a particular consulting group. You could also search through business directories such as…

Scroll through press and online testimonials to see if the firm’s past clients happen to have the same goals you want to pursue. Read about their experience. Have past campaigns exceeded funding goals? Has the consultant stayed within or under the client’s budget? And be sure to find out about the interactions and communications with the fundraising consultant. Were they positive and effective? How was their level of professionalism and ramp-up time with the staff and the community?

Find Someone Who Saves You Time

The main reason nonprofits opt for outside counsel is to save time. Again, outsourcing is an investment that spares the time and effort needed to train your team, hire new staff, and clean up the mess of an underachieving campaign. 

A good nonprofit consulting firm puts your campaign to work full-time. They’ll take on the day-to-day tasks so you and your board of directors can focus on your obligations. 

Ultimately, by the end of a successful campaign, you’ll know you made the right decision because you were able to do your job while the consultant did his or hers. 

“When considering partners for a professional fundraising campaign there’s no question that Convergent gravitates to the top. Their expertise and efficiency produces significant net yields. And, despite the popular thought tendency by some boards to keep this function ‘in house,’ having Convergent as my partner allowed me to also focus on core responsibilities during the fundraising process.”

 — Ron Tillery, Executive Director of Phelps County Development Corporation

Find Someone Who Can Make Connections on Your Behalf

You want your target donors (or what we call investors) to have a seamless connection to your nonprofit organization. 

Whether soliciting investments for an individual or a community, a good fundraising consultant embeds themselves into the audience’s environment.

While making the “ask,” a consultant should connect to prospective investors on-site and…

  • Establish trust
  • Speak their language
  • Articulate your  mission well
  • Communicate ROI
  • Answer their questions
  • Follow up

This “boots on the ground” attitude helps land investments while also spreading the word about your nonprofit’s mission and brand — thus paving the way for future campaigns. 

“Convergent is second-to-none at what they can do for nonprofit organizations. Not only will they raise the funds you need, they’ll help you make friends in the community, communicate your mission effectively, and help you understand what your strengths and weaknesses really are. They are amazing. I’d recommend them to anyone.”

— Brad Schneider, former CEO of Kyndle

 

Community connections will position your fundraising program for success, informing other decisions your organization will face in the future.

Find a Seasoned Professional Who Can Aim High and Follow Through

A good nonprofit consultant is confident to make the “ask” on your behalf, especially if the solicitation is ambitious. 

As is typically the case with ROI-based fundraising, high funding goals will be on the table. The consultant should have no problem communicating the need to invest because they’ve done it before, many times. 

Find someone with the experience and skills necessary to meet and exceed your expectations. They should have a good track record of building customized campaigns and returning with quality results. 

“Thanks to Convergent, the way we communicate about fundraising to leadership and investors has changed. We no longer need to apologize for asking for financial support. We know we can demonstrate the value of our work and clearly communicate the rationale for investment. There’s no comparison when it comes to the ROI work Convergent provides.”

— Zachary Buckner, VP of Development & Communications at Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce

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About the author

Mark Bergethon

Mark Bergethon brings extensive private and nonprofit sector experience to his role as Principal of Convergent Nonprofit Solutions. He is recognized as one of the leading national experts in funding nonprofit organizations and community initiatives through major fundraising campaigns.