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Hiring A Consultant - Tips

The choice of a fundraising consultant appropriate for your organization can be a challenge, especially if you've no prior experience in working with one.

Here are 10 things to look for:

The Code of Ethics of the Association of Fundraising Professionals says fundraising consultants should never work on a percentage basis. It's tempting to think that basing work on a percentage of funds raised would be a good deal. But what if there's a $2 million gift out their just waiting to be collected? Do you really want to pay 10%?

A good consultant won't require that you work with him/her. The feasibility study process is a good time to get to know your consultant and decide whether s/he is the right person to guide you through the campaign. There's no need to make that commitment up front.

Good Counsel can translate fundraising principles between similar campaigns and organizations. A consultant experienced at the $ 1 - 2 million range will also be comfortable at the $3 - 5 million range, and perhaps at the $6 - 10 million range.

When you've interviewed more than one person you've learned about their different strengths in presenting to a group. Much of your consultant's work will be in front of groups, so it's important you see several in action before making your choice.

Consultants can't bring donors with them. Donors come to causes and organizations. They don't come because of a prior relationship with a consultant. Never count on your consultant to get donors for you. A good consultant will show you how to approach your own donors.


Always do a reference check. Whether a consultant has a long or short list of accomplishments, be sure to talk with someone s/he worked with in the past. Expect that reference to be strong to glowing and ask some hard questions like "What do you wish the consultant had done differently?"

Because fundraising is friend-raising, it is a people business. You need good chemistry. There will likely be two or three consultant professionals who could do the job for you, but one will be a better fit. You can only know that by meeting the person before you hire the firm.

Consultants are in business and they have expenses; but don't feel bad about asking them to take time to visit with you. Yes, you'll learn from your initial visit with a consultant, but unless the travel is important and of consequence, even travel expenses should not be billable at this point.

Be sure that the proposal reflects that the consultant has taken time to find out about your organization. Did s/he call? Was there information to be learned from your web site or informational materials. The poposal will include generic material, but it should also be specific to your situation making assumptions about you only if they couldn't be checked out.

Consultants can be certified by an accrediting organization or by life experience or both. There are three levels of professional accreditation within the general practice of fundraising.

  1. Basic membership in a professional organization such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).
  2. Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE).
  3. Advanced Certified Fund Raising Executive (ACFRE).

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