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By DonorSearch


If you’ve decided to go with a fundraising consulting firm to improve your major gift fundraising, that’s great news! These nonprofit consultants can give you assistance so that you don’t have to hire someone full-time or do the research yourself.

Since every nonprofit consulting firm works differently, finding the right one for your nonprofit will involve a lot of research. You’ll also need to have a good understanding of what you want.

Luckily, finding the right consultant isn’t as hard as it sounds. We’ll go over six tips to help you find the right nonprofit consulting firm for your needs.

  1. Figure out what you need.
  2. Communicate regularly.
  3. Ask for samples or references.
  4. Find a firm with prospect research experience.
  5. Consider how much it will cost.
  6. Request a pitch.

Keep reading to learn more!

Figure out what you need for your fundraising consultant.

1. Figure out what you need before starting your search.

The first thing to determine is what you want from a nonprofit consulting firm. That way, you can truly understand if their services are right for you. Figuring out what you need starts with setting goals for what you hope to achieve.

Goals will help you know what services to look for when you start searching for a nonprofit consultant. Create goals that are specific and detailed so that you can convey them to whichever firm you decide to choose.

For example, if you’re hosting a capital campaign, you may need help with a feasibility study, general campaign management, or both! Outlining your specific needs would help you choose a capital campaign consultant who could best serve your organization.

After you have your goals figured out, you need to determine what you want to gain from the help of a fundraising consultant.

Let’s start off by looking at what a consultant can do for your nonprofit. A consultant can:

  • Give you deeper insights into your supporters’ giving habits.
  • Help you discover donors with major gift potential.
  • Suggest new ways to interact with major gift donors.

Once you’ve figured out what you want to gain, you’ll have a better understanding of which nonprofit consultants can meet your needs. Knowing this will help you narrow down your options.

The final point: Figuring out what you want is the first step to finding the right nonprofit consulting firm. It helps you establish what you’re looking for and makes the search easier from the very beginning.

Communicate regularly with your fundraising consultant.

2. Choose a firm that can communicate with you regularly.

Communication is key if you want to work with a fundraising consulting firm. When you connect with a nonprofit consultant regularly, it helps the whole process run smoothly from start to finish.

Consistent communication can help you:

  • Receive updates on the progress related to your major gifts fundraising plan.
  • Express your concerns so they can be resolved early on.
  • Ask questions as soon as they arise and receive answers quickly.

Nonprofits should strive to meet with their consultants face-to-face at least once. Otherwise, you can communicate through regularly scheduled email and phone calls.

Moreover, if communication is a huge concern for your organization, you can always hire a local nonprofit consulting firm. A nearby consultant has more opportunities to familiarize themselves with your nonprofit’s culture, which can help enhance your fundraising strategy. Plus, you’ll have more opportunities to ask questions and address concerns in person.

With that said, hiring a remote consultant has its advantages as well. Since out-of-state nonprofit consultants won’t be as familiar with your organization and your donors, they can suggest new approaches to your fundraising strategy and offer suggestions you never considered.

It’s especially important to create a schedule for firms that aren’t local. Ask them how they communicate with their remote clients. This will give you an idea of what to expect if you do decide to hire them. Additionally, see if you can meet with the nonprofit consultant in person at least once, especially early on in the partnership. 

If you can meet with the consultant soon after you hire them, you’ll have the opportunity to clearly explain your nonprofit consulting needs. Plus, you’ll be able to gauge how well you can work with each other. If your personalities mesh well, you’ll feel more comfortable accepting their guidance even if they can’t meet with you in person every time.

The final point: Find a nonprofit consulting firm where you can stay in contact often. Consistent communication helps to ensure there aren’t any delays with your projects.

Ask for samples or references for your fundraising consultant.

3. Ask for samples or references.

Finding a nonprofit consultants that has worked with similar organizations in the past is crucial if you want to be successful. Since consultants can’t guarantee success, working with someone who has prior experience can help raise the chances that you see positive results.

So how do you get a feel for a consultant’s experience? Here are a few things you should ask the nonprofit consulting firms for:

  • Examples of past work.
  • References with contact information.
  • A list of previous clients they’ve worked with.

When you get references from the nonprofit consultants you’re considering, you can contact those organizations to learn more about their experience with the firm. Not only does it allow you to see if other nonprofits were satisfied, but you can also get insight into how that particular professional works in practice. 

Samples are also another way you can learn more about the firms you’re considering. Asking for samples will give you a better idea of what they have done in the past and whether they were successful.

If your nonprofit can get these resources from the fundraising consulting firms you’re considering, the more information you’ll have. With more knowledge, you can evaluate whether or not each consultant will be a good fit for your nonprofit culture and what you want to achieve.

If you’re unsure where to start, check out our top nonprofit consulting firms!

The final point: Don’t be afraid to ask nonprofit consulting firms for references or examples of past work so that you can gain a better understanding of what they can offer.

Find a fundraising consultant firm with prospect research experience.

4. Find a firm with prospect research experience.

An important part of improving your major gift fundraising is prospect research. With prospect research, you can figure out which donors have major gift potential. Additionally, you can learn deeper insights into your supporters’ giving behaviors, such as average gift size and preferred giving channel.

That’s why it’s important to work with a nonprofit consulting firm that specializes in donor research or at least has experience working with nonprofits on similar projects in the past.

Hiring someone with experience will save you time. You won’t have to thoroughly explain what you want if your nonprofit consultant is already familiar with prospect research. Additionally, it ensures that you’re making the most return on your investment.

Like we mentioned in the previous section, having someone with the right prior experience can increase your chances of success.

Here are a couple of questions you should ask all the consultants you’re considering:

  • How do you display results? Knowing how their results will be presented will let you know whether or not it will take a long time to decipher the information.
  • How much input will you have? Does the consultant just provide you with the results of their research or will they offer suggestions based on their findings?

Depending on the help you need, the answers to these questions could be deal breakers when deciding on a firm.

Check out these fundraising consultants with prospect research services!

The final point: If you want to improve your major gift fundraising, it’s important to find a consulting firm that has prior experience offering these services. That way, you can get the largest return on your investment.

Consider how much your fundraising consultant will cost.

5. Consider how much it will cost.

The cost of a nonprofit consultant is also a big factor when deciding which firm to choose. Not every fundraising consulting firm has the same guidelines on how they charge for their services.

Depending on the project, a consultant may charge a flat fee, a retainer fee, or an hourly cost. Additionally, some consultants might include the cost of other fees like hotel expenses, travel, and food into the final price. Plus, more experienced consultants will most likely charge more for their services.

Before you choose a consultant, it’s important to know what you’re paying for. Create a budget so that you can stay on track.

If you’re hesitant about how much it’s going to cost, consider what is paramount for your nonprofit and see what consultants meet your requirements. If you find the perfect nonprofit consulting firm, you might be more comfortable spending a little more to get exactly what you need. 

If you’re unsure where to start, here a few things to consider as you think about price:

  • Your budget. How much are you looking to spend? If some of your choices fall too far outside your budget, you should consider cutting them from your list.
  • What’s most important. Determine what is most important for you to have. Maybe it’s finding someone that meshes will with your existing staff, or perhaps it’s someone who has had a lot of experience. Either way, figuring out what you want can help you decide if the price is worth it.
  • Funding priorities. If you don’t have room in your budget for a consultant, you may need to assess your current budget priorities. Talk to your board. They may be willing to cut expenses in other areas of your nonprofit.

The final point: The cost of a nonprofit consultant plays a big part in the final decision. Make sure that you have a budget and stick to it.

Request a pitch to determine whether the fundraising consultant is right for you.

6. Request a pitch from your top choices.

The last step you want to complete before making your final choice is to ask your top 3 or 4 picks to submit a pitch. A pitch is a formal way to see what each of the nonprofit consultants plans to do for your nonprofit.

Pitches often include statistics and examples to back up their suggestions, and they give you the opportunity to see what it’s like working with each nonprofit consulting firm.

You can request an in-person presentation or have the consultants submit a document called a proposal via email. The choice is up to you! However, make sure you request the same from each firm to keep things fair.

You should also give your nonprofit consultants some time to turn in their proposals. That way, you can receive quality suggestions. Give the consultant firms at least three weeks to submit their pitches. If you give them a shorter deadline, you are likely going to receive general proposals that could apply to any nonprofit.

Once you receive your proposals, take some time to go over each one. Focus on the solutions they’re suggesting and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the plan offer solutions specific to our organization? The answer to this question will show you how well the consultant understands your nonprofit’s unique needs and challenges.
  • Are solutions supplemented with logistical details? The proposal should show how a nonprofit consultant would accomplish your project. You need to know how long it will take, how much it will cost, and how your consultant will approach the project.
  • Does the consultant respond to feedback? Once a consultant submits a proposal, you should be able to discuss potential changes freely. The consultant should be open to negotiation before you outline a contract.

Take notes on each one so that you have your thoughts down on paper. Make that everyone in the decision-making process is present if your pitches are going to be in-person.

These questions will help guide you on what to look for when you sit down to read or listen to each pitch.

The final point: Before you make a decision about which nonprofit consulting firm to hire, request a pitch. That way, you can learn about the solutions each consultant has to offer.

Now, you can take these tips and start your search for the right fundraising consulting firm. If you are looking to improve your major gifts fundraising, make sure that plays a huge impact on the firm that you decide to hire.

For more on nonprofit consultants and major gifts check out these additional resources:

  1. If you need more help with major gifts, you can learn more with this resource. Our major gift guide has everything you need to know about getting started with major gifts.
  2. Looking for a consultant? Check out Aly Sterling’s guides on nonprofit consulting services in Cincinnati and Columbus. Whether you’re local or remote, you’re bound to find this resources useful.
  3. To help you find donors with major gift potential, read our wealth screening guide. This resource helps you spot major donors in your contributor database, recommends other screening tools, and so much more!

Learn more about the fundraising consulting firms who can help your nonprofit!
Picking a Fundraising Consultant for Major Gift Fundraising