There comes a time when some non-profit development professionals begin thinking about saying goodbye to their organizations and hello to the world of fundraising consulting. They want to know what it takes to be a consultant, and how to find clients.
Although the consulting profession may seem attractive, the leap into this hazardous arena requires serious thought and honest assessment of your knowledge, temperament and motivation.
Consultants must respond to a wide range of challenges, so they need to have a wide range of experience.
I know from hard-earned experience what it takes to provide sound, reliable counsel to non-profits facing the challenges of recruiting volunteers, identifying prospects, managing campaigns, and asking for money. No one should expect to be hired as a fundraising consultant without having behind them a broad base of experience in meeting and overcoming these challenges. Reading books and attending seminars are valuable learning experiences, but nothing trumps real-life experience.
Large or small, young or seasoned, experienced or novice, clients expect consultants to deliver the detailed plans and proven tools the organization needs to attract the funds it seeks. This is a demanding profession where the consultant cannot say to a client, “I don’t know,” or “I’m not sure,” or “What do you want to do next?”
It can be intimidating when all heads turn and all eyes focus on the professional consultant seated alone at the end of the meeting table, the one charged with answering any and all questions, and the one on the receiving end of sometimes harsh criticism.
You Definitely Are On Your Own
As a nonprofit fundraising consultant, you must stand ready to answer the inevitable questions:
- Why isn’t the money coming in?
- Why isn’t the money coming in faster?
- What do we do now that the Campaign Chairperson is no longer available?
- Why isn’t the solicitation committee doing its job?
- What do we do now that our biggest and most promising prospect has said, “No”?
- Should we put the campaign on hold until the economy gets better?
- Should we lower the goal since it seems we can’t reach it?
- I know we still need a million dollars to reach our goal, but shouldn’t we start going to the general community for $50 and $100 gifts?
- What do we do since our own Trustees are not giving at levels we counted on?
- You’re a consultant, supposed to be experienced in fundraising. Since we’re not as experienced in soliciting as you are, and with our campaign lagging behind, why can’t you make some solicitation calls for us?
- What are we paying you for, anyway?
And so they go. Would you be able to answer these questions? Equally significant, would you be able to act on them?
Make sure you can, and do. Your next contract depends on it.
Fundraising consulting is deeply rewarding and fulfilling. It’s also a highly precarious profession, definitely not for everyone. Before you take the plunge, make certain you have more than adequate experience, that you possess superior judgment, that you have very thick skin—and more often than not, that “luck” seems to favor you.
Have a question or comment about the above posting?
You can Ask Tony.
There is also a lot of good fundraising information on his website:
Have you seen
The Fundraising Series of ebooks ??
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