What is a Fundraising/Development Consultant?

Sections of this topic

    This is a companion piece to my posting, Who/What is a Fundraising Consultant, from last year at this time.

    First, simply, a fundraising consultant is not someone who does “it” for you, and s/he is not an insider (i.e., staff, board, etc.). A fundraising/development consultant is (must be) “an objective outsider.”

    You can, for example, engage someone to teach you how to write grant proposals, and have that person work with you to critique/edit what you write. That’s a consultant.

    If the person you engage will do the research and write the proposal for you, that’s not consulting … that’s doing.

    You can, as another example, engage a capital campaign director who will be “resident” at your location and will provide all the direction, planning, training, oversight and trouble shooting needed for the campaign. That’s doing, not consulting.

    A capital campaign consultant can train you to do what needs to be done, can sit with you and provide direction while you do what needs doing, can provide occasional analysis of progress, and can suggest ways to improve/enhance the process. That’s consulting.

    Taking the definition to the next step, for a consultant to provide the best possible advice/counsel/direction/training, s/he must (to a significant degree) buy into your mission and make a commitment (to him-/her-self) to help you succeed in its pursuit.

    The consultant you want to engage is the one who will care about your success, and will work with you to help you achieve it. A consultant will often lose sleep … thinking about how s/he could help you do “it” better.

    A good consultant will help you develop the perspective, the direction of vision, to understand how development/fundraising relates to everything an organization does, and how everything your organization does can impact/enhance/hurt your fundraising/development efforts.

    A consultant will help you Identify The Problem, identify the solution to the problem, and work with you to implement that solution, but won’t solve it for you.

    One important element in the definition of a fundraising/development consultant is how that person is compensated: A fee, based on the number of hours or days s/he will commit to working with you, or a pre-defined fee to include any/all effort s/he will expend on your behalf. Said fees are usually payable at $xxx per month … at the beginning of each month of the relationship. Fundraising/development consultants are never compensated by a percentage or commission of the monies raised.

    Some “consultants” offer various combinations of consulting and doing. Before you engage counsel, talk with him/her, get a feel for what it is you might want him/her to do, and discuss the wording of a contract. Don’t just hire someone because you don’t want to do it yourself or because you don’t have a clue as to what needs to be done or how to do it.

    And, a final thought: Consultants are also people, with the usual character plusses and minuses, but the one characteristic a consultant must have to be most effective is an ability to read, understand, motivate and get along with the people with whom s/he will be working.
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