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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Choosing a Nonprofit Consultant: Advice for Nonprofits

Your nonprofit is considering hiring a consultant to assist with a certain project or task. But how do you know if you’re ready to bring on outside assistance, and how can you choose the best expert for your organization?

In this quick guide, we’ll discuss whether your nonprofit is ready to work with a consultant. Then, we’ll cover how to choose the right partner if you are. 

These tips apply to both midsized and large organizations—understanding your challenges and finding a partner with the skills and experience you need is important for any type of nonprofit. 

Remember, it’s important to assess your nonprofit’s specific needs and requirements before investing in a consultant to ensure you can make the most of this collaboration. Let’s get started!

How do you know if you’re ready for a nonprofit consultant?

You must have a basic understanding of the current challenges your nonprofit faces and where a consultant can step in to help you accomplish your goals. 

You’ll know that you’re ready for a consultant if:

  • You’ve identified a challenge within your organization, such as low donor retention or needing guidance for an upcoming capital campaign.
  • You may have identified several growth opportunities, such as the opportunity to expand your facilities or diversify your fundraising streams.
  • You’re open to suggestions and willing to listen to and implement recommendations for your new strategy.

If you already have a defined plan and you’re simply looking for additional help to see it through, this probably isn’t the best time to bring on outside guidance. However, if you’re truly open and ready to accept and implement a consultant’s advice, you’ll be able to make the most of the collaborative relationship. 

If you relate to these statements, you’re ready to move onto the research phase of the consultant hiring process. 

How can you find the right consultant for your organization?  

It’s critical to find a consultant who meshes well with your team. You’ll be working closely with this specialist, so you want to ensure you can establish a strong relationship based on trust. 

To find a consultant who fits your organization’s culture, Aly Sterling Philanthropy’s guide to hiring a fundraising consultant recommends asking the following questions:

  • What are the consultant’s basic philosophies? Inquiring about a consultant’s values can reveal what they stand for and if their priorities align with your organization’s. 
  • What is their area of expertise? Consultants offer a wide variety of services based on their experience and background. This resource mentions several top consultant services such as conducting fundraising assessments, campaign planning, and board evaluations. It’s important to find someone with experience in your issue area. 
  • Are they local or remote? A local consultant can offer on-site support, while a remote specialist can present a fresh, outsider perspective. 
  • Can they provide referrals or testimonials? Customer reviews can help you learn about other organizations’ experiences with a certain consultant and whether they’ve helped nonprofits similar to yours in the past. 

While reviewing referrals and testimonials, be on the lookout for consultants whose clients say they’re good listeners, easy to collaborate with, responsive to communications, and organized. 

Additionally, as you start to contact different service providers to get to know them better, take note of how quickly they address your questions and their level of interest in your organization and projects. This can give you a preview of what your working relationship would look like. 

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Deciding if you’re ready for a consultant and finding the right person for your nonprofit is a process that takes time and thoughtful consideration. 

In this process, it’s also important to not sell your organization short. Hiring a nonprofit consultant will be an investment, but spending the funding on this investment now can result in the future growth of your nonprofit. If you’re truly ready to commit the time and resources needed to hire an experienced expert, you’ll be able to start making real strides for your cause and spark the changes that will push your organization forward.

For a comprehensive list of nonprofit consultants that work with all types of organizations and represent a broad range of specializations, check out Double the Donation’s nonprofit consulting firms guide. This could be the right investment for your organization to help achieve greater future success. 


Authored by Aly Sterling, Founder & President, Aly Sterling Philanthropy, a leading nonprofit consultancy in the nation. Aly’s expertise includes fundraising, strategic planning, search consultation, and board leadership development for the well-positioned nonprofit. Learn more at: https://alysterling.com/aly-sterling/ and connect with Aly on LinkedIn.

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