Should You Hire a Fundraising Consultant? I don’t Know – and I am One! Part 1

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Simone P. Joyaux, ACFRE is recognized internationally as an expert in fund development, board and organizational development, strategic planning, and management. She is the founder and director of Joyaux Associates. Visit her website here.

Let me talk candidly . . . I assume you’re used to that by now.

So here goes: Don’t hire a fundraising consultant unless you need one. But if you need one, then hire one. And pick the right one for your organization.

How do you know if you need one? That’s the challenge, isn’t it?

Let’s start with when not to hire a fund development consultant.

·      Situation #1: Your organization just lost its major grant. You need money right away. Without immediate cash you’ll have to cut program or close your doors. It’s too late now. You can’t fix cash emergencies by hiring a consultant. Plan ahead. Hire the consultant months before the grant expires.

·      Situation #2: You are looking for a silver bullet . . . the magic pill and quick fix that will produce lots of money, easily and regularly. This is the wrong attitude for effective fund development. There are no silver bullets or magic pills or quick fixes.

·      Situation #3: You expect the consultant to bring a list of prospective donors because, after all, the consultant knows lots about big givers. Wrong. The consultant helps you identify those who might be interested in your cause.

·      Situation #4: You’re counting on the consultant to solicit gifts. Wrong again. The consultant teaches you how to solicit and you solicit. Your prospective donors don’t want to hear from the consultant. They want to hear from you.

·      Situation #5: The consultant will raise the money and the board members can relax. Even more wrong. A good fund development consultant will help you engage your board members in fund development.

Of course, good consultants know the body of knowledge. You wouldn’t hire someone who didn’t know the body of knowledge. But do you know what the body of knowledge is? Visit and look at the test content outline. That’s what any fundraising consultant must know.

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You are not hiring someone to teach you secrets or give you a magic pill or silver bullet that only that particular person has. And if someone is trying to sell you a trademarked secret or proven pill or guaranteed bullet, don’t buy!

But there’s more to a good consultant than knowing the body of knowledge in fund development. You need an organizational development specialist. Why? Because most fundraising problems are not fundraising problems. They are problems in other parts of your organization. Read my 2010 columns “Are you just a great fundraising technician or more?” And see the monograph on my website. Fundraising is about more than fundraising. Keep that in mind.

And there’s still more. You should hire a good teacher. Good consultants leave behind new and enhanced skills for your organization.

And still there’s more. Good consultants are even more than experts and teachers. I think of good consultants as change agents and truth tellers.

Are you ready for that? Are you ready to hear the truth? Are you ready to listen and learn and change? Because if you and your organization are not ready to do so, why would you want a consultant?

You need a trusted advisor. Someone who will help you question and explore. Someone who will help you ask the essential and even cage-rattling questions. Someone who will help you learn and change.

  • John Coxon

    Simone, everything you say her gels with our own experiences. As a management consultancy working in the nonprofit sector we do receieve requests from clients to manage a fundraising process. Intially we were reluctant to do this work however we learned from experience and also from our clients previous experiences about what worked and what didnt work.

    It takes a bit for the board and volunteers to get their head around having to pay a consultant while they do all the work. At least it appears to be that way. They soon learn that a good fundraising consultant becomes involved in the whole process, contributes a great deal more than just fundraising knowledge, often becomes the ‘go-to’ person for a whole heap of non fundraising related advice, organises, guides, coaches the volunteers involved in the fundraising, prepares the marketing and stakeholder communication, manages the project, provides ongoing motivation and then at the end steps back and lets the volunteers bask in the glory.

    In our experience everything you talk about above we have done and more in our role as fundraising project managers. The key I believe is to manage it as a project, to have an established process and to remember you can never over communicate when working with volunteers. They have passion and they expect value for money.

    And yes, if it fails they reserve the right to lay the blame at the foot of the consultant. That’s life.

    John Coxon