What Does a Fundraising Consultant Do?

Fundraising Consultant at Work

What Does a Fundraising Consultant Do?

What does a fundraising consultant do?

A Beatles lyric was my inspiration for this thought about the day-to-day role of a fundraising consultant conducting a feasibility study or directing a capital campaign. “What would you think if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me?”  When asked what does a fundraising consultant do, the short answer is that I work closely with nonprofit organizations, getting to know their community and their mission inside and out, so I can raise the funds they need to reach sustainability and achieve their strategic goals.

My goal is to be finely tuned for our clients for a walk together down a long and winding road.

Orchestrating the fundraising effort

There are a variety of compositions during a campaign. One that requires healthy harmony is the relationship between the Convergent on-site director and our client’s staff team. I attempt to quickly appreciate and become passionate about our client’s campaign objectives; best stated as outcomes that solve a problem or address a need.

From day one, I’m onsite with the client getting to know their mission and inner workings, helping formulate their prospectus, and assisting in the preparation for the major fundraising campaign. I often find that our clients can be short-staffed or have a staff with more to get done than the hours of the day will allow. I am an extension of this team. Fundraising is a top priority for a nonprofit. But there are many top priorities for most nonprofits.

I don’t want our efforts to fall “flat” by underachieving our client’s expectations for performance. My sheet music is our campaign calendar chronologically outlining the essential processes during a campaign. I also keep time by collaborating with our clients and other client partners providing campaign support to meet task deadlines for the project such as marketing, promotional materials, and events.

“Our project director was immediately well-received by our internal staff and the community,” said Zachary Buckner, VP of Development & Communications, Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce. “He broke a barrier no other consultant had—our business leaders trusted him.  He immersed himself into community and really made an effort to learn what made us tick. “

Singing the right song for success

The lyric is the campaign story exhibited initially by a feasibility study prospectus and then by the campaign case for investment. After our team interviews 40-60 local leaders confidentially, I synthesize their opinions on our nonprofit client’s strategic plan, board, accomplishments, and more. I have worked hard throughout this process to build consensus, uncover additional potential funding, and hopefully even identify campaign leaders.

The realistic fundraising goal is then set together with the nonprofit and on we march into the crescendo of our tune, the capital campaign. Investable outcomes are also developed by Convergent working with our client’s team to author a compelling case. We look at the ability to show future impact and return on investment.

Investors help compose the campaign

Campaign success has many composers. We know them as investors who underwrite the client’s program. Campaign investor prospects are researched and evaluated with care to determine an appropriate ask for support. Convergent’s philosophy of investors versus donors puts our clients on a path to sustainable funding. However, not everyone is comfortable making asks for major investments and not everyone has the time. In fact, according to Bloomerang, although 53% of nonprofits say major gifts are vital to fundraising, almost 3/4 of them do not have someone working on this full time.

Thus, the most significant part of my job as a Convergent project director or fundraising consultant is the final movement in our collaborative campaign composition, orchestrating the “ask.” The Convergent project director or fundraising consultant, sometimes assisted by a first chair volunteer, conducts the solicitation. My goal is to have the volunteer state his or her enthusiasm and engagement with our client’s campaign and then hand the baton to us to request financial support.

The main part of this entire “performance” is for the fundraising consultant to conduct a successful campaign. The numbers at the end of the effort (and all the way along) speak for themselves.

“I have hired Convergent twice and both times they have delivered energetic and successful capital campaigns,” said Heather Simmons Jones, CEO of the Greenwood Partnership Alliance in South Carolina. “They are proven professionals who bring a disciplined and fun approach to raising money. Every community is different, but Convergent’s experience results in the same goal we all share – campaign victory!”

About the author

Jay Werth

Jay has over a decade of nonprofit fundraising experience. In his role as Principal at Convergent, he utilizes his expertise in communications, campaign positioning, and execution to ensure projects are completed on time and under budget.