TOPIC | Why engage a fundraising consultancy?
Whether you’re an established charity with a solid fundraising team or a not-for-profit looking to develop your fundraising resources, at some point the question will raise its head – should we hire a consultancy?
If the answer is no, this may be because you’re confident your in-house team can take on more, or you feel comfortable with handling the process of finding and keeping great staff. After all, your own development office, trustees or board members are likely to understand what you do better than most. Whether the challenge ahead is a major capital project, a fundraising review or the recruitment and training of new people, it will be cheaper and easier to go it alone. At least, sometimes it might.
Asking the right questions
On the other hand, decades of experience in the third sector tells us that good consultancies have the capacity to add exceptional value to your fundraising endeavours and long-term organisational health. Often the secret to a rewarding partnership with a professional fundraising consultancy involves asking the right questions from the outset:
- Do the consultancy’s previous clients think they delivered the service they promised? Did they reach their fundraising target and was the consultant a key contributor to the overall success of the project?
- Is the consultancy a one-man-band or does it offer a number of individuals with the right credentials? If it’s the latter, then the risk of one person leaving should not affect the level of service that you receive. Equally if, for whatever reason, the lead consultant is not the right individual for you, the consultancy should be able to offer a ready-made replacement.
Still, you may be unsure about ‘an outsider’s’ dedication to your vision. The question of commitment is a curious one. Logically the person appointed to be the in-house Fundraiser ought to be more focused and determined. However, it’s worth remembering that a successful consultancy will only survive if it can prove, time after time, that it’s helped its clients achieve their objectives.
Fundraising consultancies don’t spend vast amounts on marketing, they don’t cold-call to earn assignments. They rely almost entirely on their results and on word of mouth recommendations from satisfied clients. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, fundraising consultancies must consistently deliver results.
There are other advantages to appointing a consultant, particularly at the start of a fundraising initiative;
- Consultants can bring an objective point of view and tackle difficult issues without becoming embroiled in internal politics.
- External prospects, donors and partners often speak more openly with a consultant, as he or she is one step removed from a frank conversation with the institution.
- Consultants can add capacity to your in-house team, using the consultants to complete a specific task or project and letting your team continue the day-to-day job they do so successfully.
- Typically, consultants are highly experienced, bringing new perspectives and knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. They can often benchmark your activity against other comparable institutions.
- Consultants’ impartiality and credibility can be usefully employed to deliver difficult messages to people.
- Consultants have the ability to focus on the task outlined in the brief and should not be distracted by other calls on their attention.
- The chances are that experienced consultants have seen it before. They will probably have encountered the challenges that you’re facing and will have developed solutions that have worked before and will work again.
Agreeing the terms for success
Engaging a consultancy will inevitably be more expensive than going in-house. But, a good consultant will offer a package of services to be delivered in properly costed phases. Each phase of work will be governed by a legally binding contract with an appropriate termination clause. If it’s not working as effectively as you’d hoped, you should have the right to cancel the partnership.
Hiring a fundraising consultancy won’t give you immediate access to major donors; nor will it provide a magic bullet that guarantees instant success. It should, however, give you proven experience, based on thorough knowledge and genuine fundraising success, with organisations who were once where you are now.
If you'd like to chat about whether consultancy services could support your organisation please do contact us for an informal discussion.