The Consultant and Client: Not Always on the Same Page

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    Some time ago, I had a conversation with a group of colleagues about “expectations” in our relationships between consultants and clients – our expectations, and theirs !!

    We all pretty much agreed that it really doesn’t make much of a difference what we spell out in our contracts regarding deliverables, as the client (who often won’t give the contract a thorough reading) has a vision of what s/he wants, that s/he believes the relationship with the consultant will provide.

    For example, when I have a contract with an organization to “work with them to design and train them and their leadership to implement a major gifts program,” that contract will spell out my understanding of what (I believe) both parties are agreeing to do. No matter the wording, however, the client often sees the relationship as resulting in the acquisition of major gifts, not in the creation of any kind of a “program.”

    Another common example: Where a consultant’s contract will spell out the fact that (in the language required by many states) the consultant will never handle (have possession of) a client’s funds and that the consultant will work with the client to plan/design (for example) a major gifts program and advise/train/direct the client in their fundraising efforts, it is so often the case that the client believes that the contract calls for the consultant to “bring in” those major gifts.

    Even though I always spend some time discussing desired outcomes with prospective clients before I draft a contract, and even though we will discuss that contract a number of times … and may modify it each time before it’s ready to be signed, no matter how much discussion and re-writing precedes the signing of a contract, it rarely reflects the totality of what the client organization *really* wants … and what they expect to happen as a result of the relationship.

    That doesn’t mean that they don’t get value for their money. Of course, they do !!

    But however the client benefits, it’s often not in ways they thought they would…

    Have a comment or a question about starting, evaluating, or expanding your fundraising program? With over 30 years of counseling in major gifts, capital campaigns, bequest programs, and the planning studies to precede these three, I’ll be pleased to answer your questions. Contact me at
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