Running a nonprofit is challenging. One often begins with the best intentions: addressing a need, promoting change, or something similar. If you think that your organization could use a hand, try this quick guide to consulting for nonprofits and see if a consultant could be what you need.
However, despite what some believe, a nonprofit is a business; it has employees, administrative needs, managerial needs, operating costs, fundraising costs, and more. With all the demand that can come from operating a nonprofit, sometimes a person needs to ask for help. No one person or nonprofit knows how to do everything effectively; in cases like these, a nonprofit consultant is often the best solution.
What is a Nonprofit Consultant?
Even the most seasoned nonprofits and businesses know that they cannot do everything themselves. For whatever reason, they are either underequipped, inexperienced, or they want an expert. This is where a nonprofit consultant comes in. A consultant or consulting firm provides specialized and proficient services to organizations that either cannot or do not want to address a need themselves.
For nonprofits specifically, the two most common types of consulting services are those that provide fundraising strategies and technology strategies and implementation. Other common consultants used by nonprofits are marketing firms and those that provide internal, administrative support for human resources or accounting. In general, these consultants are hired by nonprofits to address a specific need; they then create and implement a solution to address that immediate need or needs and typically offer long-term strategies or solutions.
Types of Consulting Firms and What They Offer
1. Fundraising Consultant
For a nonprofit, fundraising is not an option; it’s a must. However, successful fundraising takes dedication and experience. For many nonprofits, a fundraising consultant not only lightens workloads but also provides proven experience, which leads to more effective strategies and results.
2. Grant Writing Consultant
Grant writing is an art, one which requires a specific set of skills. With potential funding on the line, nonprofits often turn to grant writing consultants to ensure their proposals are more likely to receive positive returns. A grant writing consultant can do everything from advising nonprofits to writing grants for nonprofits themselves.
3. Technology Consultant
In today’s world, technology is unavoidable. Every successful nonprofit has a presence online – whether through their own website or social media. However, creating and running websites and keeping up to date with technology can be time consuming, especially when technical glitches arise. Many nonprofits turn to tech consultants for support in one or more of these areas.
4. Human Resources Consultant
For medium to large nonprofits, a human resources consultant can be invaluable. As a nonprofit grows, more staff is needed to keep it operational. Some nonprofits turn to human resources consultants for a number of services which can include effectively managing the relationship between employees and the board and even doing recruiting, interviewing, and hiring.
5. Accounting Consultant
Nonprofits often deal with sizable sums of money from fundraising, donations, grants, and more. To ensure everything is filed correctly and that staff have something to be paid with, nonprofits often seek out accounting consultants to manage money. These professional services typically help organize finances and ease the worries of board members.
6. Legal Consultant
A number of legal situations may present themselves to a nonprofit. In these cases, it is always better to turn to an expert. Legal consultants will provide their legal expertise and help in any situation a nonprofit may need them for.
7. Special Events/Events Consultant
Fundraising events, like any fundraising strategy, are a big deal. To make the most of an event, nonprofits typically turn toward special events consultants in order to provide constituents, donors, and potential donors with the best event they can to maximize fundraising potential.
What to Look for in a Consulting Firm
First and foremost, a nonprofit considering hiring a consulting firm must be sure that the potential consulting firm actually works with nonprofits. While there are a number of consulting firms out there – for corporations, business, and organizations of every kind – it is best to seek out those that work specifically with nonprofits. These firms will be the most knowledgeable and have the most experience in providing service for nonprofits, which will make them even more effective in tackling whatever challenge a nonprofit is facing.
From there, it is important for a nonprofit to examine the experience and track record a consulting firm has. A few questions to consider are: how long has the firm been around? Do they have positive reviews online? What other nonprofits have they worked with? What makes them the best for tackling the needs of your nonprofit? If a consulting firm has been around for a long time, it can be assumed they are good at what they do and have a proven record of success. If reviews for the firm are overwhelming positive, they will more than likely do positive work for your nonprofit. If a firm has worked with other nonprofits and shown success, that firm can hopefully bring that success to almost any nonprofit. Lastly, because there are often many consulting firms, seeking out those who specifically address an issue or issues at your nonprofit will be the most effective.
Getting Started: How to Hire A Consultant
1. Review the Needs of Your Nonprofit
Start by asking what your nonprofit needs? Is it fundraising assistance? An accountant? Assistance with a grant proposal? By identifying a need or needs that must be addressed, a nonprofit can begin to assess whether or not they need the help of a consultant.
2. Discuss the Needs with the Board
The board of directors steers a nonprofit and must approve of major decisions like hiring a consultant. After identifying a need or needs, they must be discussed with the board to determine a course of action – like hiring a specific consultant.
3. Set Some Goals and Guidelines
If the board approves, goals and guidelines for the consultant will need to be set. A consultant cannot do their job effectively without a goal or goals to work toward. It is also beneficial to set a budget and a timeline.
With board approval and goals in place, one must then research consultants who provide a service that addresses the needs of the nonprofit. As stated before, be sure to seek consultants who typically work with nonprofits, have proven experience, and are well reviewed for the best results.
5. Create a Request for Proposal
A request for proposal – or RFP for short – is a formal document that thoroughly details the project, the needs, the goals, and the guidelines.
6. Review All Candidates and Their Proposals
After sending out the RFP and receiving responses, a nonprofit has to review the candidates and their proposals. Try making lists stating the pros and cons of each candidate to help narrow it down.
7. Make the Best Choice for Your Nonprofit
After reviewing, choose the best consultant to fill your nonprofit’s needs.
Why Your Nonprofit Should Consider Consultants
Operating a nonprofit takes hard work and dedication; with all of the moving pieces, responsibilities, and people involved, it can be overwhelming. Sometimes the best choice a nonprofit can make is asking for help. Whether with fundraising, grant writing, or even human resources, nonprofit consultants exist to help make any nonprofits’ operations easier. Using their services can yield great successes. But before hiring anyone, be sure to review a consultant’s work and experience and discuss any needs your nonprofit has with your board of directors.
For more tips, tricks, advice, and guides on how to make the most of your nonprofit, see the rest of our articles. Here at Nonprofit Megaphone, our mission is to make your mission a success. If you think that Nonprofit Megaphone’s industry-leading management of the Google Ad Grant could be right for your organization, click here for a free consultation!