Understanding the Fundraising Consultant Hiring Process

Understanding the Fundraising Consultant Hiring Process

Working with the right consultant can change the trajectory of your organization’s fundraising. No matter what kind of support you need, whether it’s planning a capital campaign or conducting a fundraising assessment, a fundraising consultant can help. 

But how do you find the perfect consultant for your organization, and how exactly do you hire one? To help you understand what the fundraising consultant hiring process looks like, we’ll cover the most important elements:

  • Assessing Your Organization’s Needs
  • Requests for Proposals (RFPs)
  • Consultant Research
  • Making Your Decision

Once you go through the hiring process, your nonprofit will end up with a valuable resource who can help you make lasting changes to your organization’s fundraising approach. Let’s dive in so you can start reaping those benefits!

Assessing Your Organization’s Needs

Similar to the process you go through when choosing new fundraising software to invest in, you’ll first need to determine exactly what you need from the consultant. Assess your resources, goals, and recent campaign performance to determine which areas of fundraising you need help with. 

Some common focus areas that fundraising consultants can assist you with include: 

  • Major donor research and cultivation: If you’re not meeting your fundraising goals because you don’t have enough major donors, a consultant can help you find the most likely prospects and strategically build relationships with them.
  • Capital campaigns: Need to fund a major building or project? Your fundraising consultant can conduct a feasibility study to make sure you’re ready, work with you to develop an effective case for support, and see you through the entire planning stage. Plus, they can provide you with ongoing guidance throughout the campaign.
  • Strategic planning: No matter what size campaign you’re planning, a qualified consultant will get familiar with your nonprofit’s needs and goals to develop a thorough campaign strategy designed to drive success.
  • General approach to fundraising: Maybe your team is new to hosting fundraisers or your traditional tactics just seem to be falling flat. Consultants can train your team on today’s fundraising best practices or even hire new staff members to support your organization’s long-term development.

After determining the type of fundraising support you’ll need from your consultant, be sure to  define specific goals for their involvement. What outcomes do you want to achieve with their help? Set concrete goals, such as securing 10 major gifts within the next year or increasing the total value of individual donations by 20%.

Request for Proposals (RFPs)

Next, you’ll use the goals you set to create an RFP, or Request for Proposals. RFPs are documents your organization creates to outline why you’re searching for a consultant, explain what you’re looking for, and ask prospects to send in proposals for consideration. 

RFPs keep your search on track and give prospective consultants a clear idea of the services you require. To write one effectively, Donorly’s fundraising consultant hiring guide breaks down everything your RFP should include:

  • Purpose: Explain why you’re hiring a consultant, what your specific needs are, and what you ultimately hope to achieve. If you need them to work on a specific campaign, explain the basic purpose of the campaign here.
  • Organizational information: Give a quick overview of what your nonprofit does and the causes you support. Include information on how long you’ve been operating and the fundraising strategies and tools you already use, as well. 
  • Details about the project: Outline the scope, timeline, work expectations, and budget for the project the consultant will work on, including as much detail as possible.
  • Goals for the relationship: Define specific success measurements for the project and the consultant’s work. Include how and when you’ll evaluate progress. 
  • Submission guidelines: Let prospective consultants know everything their proposals need to include, and set a due date. 

Once you’ve created a draft, run the RFP by your board for final approval. After researching options and selecting consultants you’re interested in learning more about, you’ll send your RFP to each one. Each consultant will then use these guidelines to create their own proposals, which you’ll use to determine the best fit.

Consultant Research

Now that you’ve outlined your needs and goals in your RFP, you can begin searching for potential consultants!

There are multiple avenues for consultant research. Start by reaching out to your colleagues and connections at other nonprofits to ask for recommendations. You might attend nonprofit panels that fundraising consultants participate in to hear about their services. Or, conduct research online using general Google searches or by visiting reputable websites like The Giving Institute or AFP’s fundraising consultant directory

As you research consultants, pay attention to each one’s:

  • Services and specialties
  • Case studies and examples of their work
  • Type of organizations they typically work with 
  • Fundraising philosophies
  • Location or ability to work with you remotely

Take notes on every consultant that stands out throughout your research, then bring your team together to discuss your findings. Based on these factors, narrow down your options to a list of 5-10 consultants you think could be the best fit.

Making Your Decision

As soon as you have your list of prospective consultants, you can jump into the process of sending RFPs and evaluating the candidates. To make a decision, follow these steps:

  1. Reach out to consultants and send RFPs: Email or call everyone on your list before sending your RFP to state your interest. Introducing yourself upfront will help you get to know candidates and start relationships off on the right foot. After this initial outreach, send RFPs and give the consultants at least two weeks to send their proposals in.
  2. Review proposals: Compile a team of staff members to review the submitted proposals together and discuss each one’s merits. Then, select a few consultants you feel confident about and want to interview.
  3. Conduct interviews and check references: Sit down with each of your top contenders and ask them anything more you need to know. For example, if they’ll be training your team, ask them detailed questions about their fundraising training process. Ask for a few references at the interview, then use them to verify the quality of their work. 
  4. Create and send a contract: Once you’ve made your final decision, you can draft a contract! Include information about compensation, key performance indicators, and the scope of their responsibilities. 

To make your final choice, consider factors like the quality of the consultant’s previous work, how their proposal aligns with your needs, and their personal fit with your nonprofit’s culture. According to eCardWidget, your company culture is made up of your organizational values, attitudes, and practices. It’s important that everyone working with your nonprofit aligns with its culture to ensure satisfaction. 

The consultant hiring process can feel like a big time commitment, but think of it as an investment. The more careful thought and dedication you put into the process, the better results you’ll see when you find the right fit. Fundraising consultants can give your organization the tools to thrive for years to come and ultimately do more of what matters, so they’re worth taking the time to find.