Even nonprofits with the most experienced, innovative, and hard-working teams working for them face complex issues every once in a while. These problems can come from intense fundraising campaigns or institutional inertia, but they all require a new method of approach.
No matter the problem, there is someone in the nonprofit sphere who can bring a new set of eyes to the table and help you overcome your nonprofit’s obstacles.
Fundraising consultants are nonprofit professionals who bring a new perspective and ideas to the table to help your nonprofit reach greater heights.
No matter if your nonprofit needs help with planning their strategy or brainstorming new ways to reach donors, there is a fundraising consultant who can help your organization overcome its obstacles and reach its goals.
If you’re considering bringing on a fundraising consultant but aren’t sure, ask yourself where your nonprofit’s trouble spots are, and then if a consultant could help you circumnavigate those issues.
What can a fundraising consultant offer your nonprofit?
If you think that your nonprofit could benefit from any of these services, read on to learn more about what a fundraising consultant could do for you.
One of the most important things that a fundraising consultant brings to your team is their unparalleled experience with working with other nonprofits.
In their years as a consultant, they’ve probably worked with nonprofits bigger than yours, smaller than yours, with similar missions to yours, and with completely different missions. They’ve been hired for capital campaigns, event planning, and marketing strategies.
This breadth of experience allows them to understand which strategies work for what types of nonprofits and why, so when you combine that understanding with your own knowledge of your nonprofit’s ins and outs, you can supercharge your strategies.
What are some strategies that a fundraising consultant could bring to your nonprofit?
Digital marketing techniques.
Major gift best practices.
Community engagement strategies.
Every nonprofit’s master strategy has room for improvement, and you never know where you might find room to implement a more current best practice.
A feasibility study is an important part of a long-term fundraising campaign, like a capital campaign, so any strategy that improves the effectiveness of the study is invaluable.
When you conduct your feasibility study, a new face and impartial ear can be the key to getting candid, honest responses from your board members and community leaders about the chances of success of your campaign.
Just like you’re more likely to be honest about a piece of art in a museum than a piece by a friend or loved one, board members are more likely to be honest about their thoughts on a campaign when talking to a stranger than a colleague or friend.
A fundraising consultant will also lead your team through tasks during your feasibility study like:
Screening your database for major prospects.
Conducting interviews with key stakeholders.
Revamping data management strategies.
Prescribing some follow-up steps to complete before the campaign.
Your feasibility study is the most important part of the planning process for any large-scale fundraising campaign, so you want to ensure that it’s the best reflection of your nonprofit possible.
Another reason to bring a fundraising consultant onto your team is to have someone look over your existing processes with the same impartial eye that improved your feasibility study.
Organizational or institutional inertia is certainly an issue in nonprofits everywhere: once your team has systems in place, it’s hard to change them, especially if they work just fine.
However, you want your nonprofit’s operations to be more than just fine. You want them to be as efficient and effective as possible.
Consider where in your own nonprofit’s system there is room for improvement:
Data management and technology integrations.
Board leadership and engagement.
Staff efficiency or responsibility overlap.
It can be hard to see where these areas are, especially when you’re a part of your nonprofit’s machinery. Bringing in a fundraising consultant can help you pinpoint those troublespots.
There are a lot of consultants out there who work specifically with board members or executive leadership to improve their abilities and introduce best practices to them and the rest of your team.
Learning is an ongoing process, so make sure you equip your team with the tools they need to help your nonprofit succeed!
This is where the “fundraising” of “fundraising consultant” comes in. Your nonprofit’s tried and true fundraising strategies are naturally a staple of your toolbox, but sometimes generating new ideas is just what you need to revitalize your team and your donors.
New techniques are especially important for capital campaigns and annual funds, where majors gifts are a must and your donors have to be emotionally invested in your success.
What new methods can your fundraising consultant suggest?
Techniques for raising the stakes of your fundraiser (perfect for annual funds!)
Ways to incorporate technology into your fundraisers.
New fun themes or types of events for your season.
New ways to engage your donors.
Initiating new forms of donor and supporter engagement is the best way to restructure your fundraising strategies, because they are the backbone of all your efforts!
Using your consultant’s knowledge, plan ways to foster new relationships and get creative with your prospect or donor research.
Fundraising is hard. But it’s worth it because of the good it allows your nonprofit to do in your community. If you choose to bring on a fundraising consultant, you can ask them to help you through the difficult parts of your long-haul campaigns.
Capital campaigns can be intimidating for newer or smaller nonprofits, because they frequently span longer than a year and are vital to the continuation of your organization. A fundraising consultant can help ensure that you have the stamina necessary to succeed.
If you choose to bring on a consultant, ask them some of the following questions while conducting your search:
How do you think nonprofits like mine can ensure their success in larger campaigns?
What type of experience do you have with (capital campaigns/annual fund campaigns/etc.)?
If this difficult situation occurred, how would you approach it to find a solution?
How do you plan to keep major donors engaged through a capital campaign?
Bonus: knowing your donor’s passions, motivations, and values can help you better engage with them and build stronger relationships. Get to know them better with 23 questions to ask donors and prospects from Bloomerang.
While there are many more important things to know about a consultant before engaging with them, one of the most important things to know is how they handle difficult situations and unforeseen obstacles.
A perfect track record with nonprofits is good, but a track record of facing and overcoming obstacles is better. You want a fundraising consultant who will be in your corner no matter what difficulties come up on your path to success.
Mission drift sometimes occurs when a nonprofit’s team becomes too insular and doesn’t conduct regular check-ins with all members of the staff and board. Pursuing funding that falls just a little outside of the nonprofit’s regular mission also contributes to mission drift.
A fundraising consultant can help prevent this, especially if you’ve noticed it slowly occurring, because they aren’t used to the everyday conversations and rationalizations that occur within the office.
When they’re brought onboard, a consultant should be educated on the history and mission of the nonprofit. This way, when they actually start consulting, they start from square one.
When your team and the consultant start conducting strategic planning meetings, the consultant can help ensure that the plan for the campaign remains firmly in the boundaries of your nonprofit’s mission.
This ‘square one’ approach is especially helpful during long campaigns, because instead of getting discouraged if things slow down and reaching outside of your team’s normal pathways of fundraising, your consultant can help revitalize your campaign with strategies that align with your mission.
The final reason for the inclusion of a fundraising consultant on your nonprofit’s team is that their influence doesn’t stop after the engagement ends.
When a nonprofit works with a consultant for a set amount of time, the lessons learned and strategies planned for the nonprofit don’t vanish into thin air when the consultant leaves.
The tools and plans that your team and consultant come up with when working together are your nonprofit’s to keep and benefit from for years to come.
Something as simple as learning how to promote matching gifts to mid-level and major donors can have long-lasting benefits for your nonprofit’s fundraising strategy.
Some of the most valuable takeaways from working with a consultant are:
Improved best practices and techniques for your board and team members.
Marketing strategies that can be adapted to future campaigns.
New ways of approaching donors or prospects.
A more nuanced understanding of your nonprofit’s strengths and weaknesses.
No matter if you bring a consultant on for a short project, to solve a specific problem, or to work with your nonprofit through an entire capital campaign, the organization-specific solutions and strategies that you develop together stay with your nonprofit.
Not every nonprofit needs to bring on a consultant for every project, but every nonprofit can benefit from the strategies and solutions that a fundraising consultant can provide to your team.
If you’re thinking more seriously about hiring a consultant and want to read more about how to get started, check out this guide to fundraising consultant fees from Averill Fundraising Solutions to determine the best course of action for your nonprofit.
This guest post was contributed by our friends over at Averill Fundraising Solutions.
Chad Peddicord’s experience includes more than 15 years collaborating, assisting, directing, and providing strategic guidance to not for profits. Having worked both as a consultant and a chief development officer, Chad brings a unique perspective to his role as Executive Vice President of Averill Fundraising Solutions. This point of view informs his collaborative approach in empowering clients to maximize opportunities and produces optimal results.