DickersonBakker Blog

3 Questions That Will Help You in Hiring the Right Nonprofit Consultant

Over my eleven years of consulting, I have unfortunately had to step in to fix the mess that occurred on a previous consultant’s watch. Some of the messes occurred after the consultant got a little too creative and advised a risky strategy outside generally accepted practice. In other cases, the consultant gave solid counsel that wasn’t heeded or well-received. The wake of these issues significantly cost those nonprofits both momentum and money. So, how do you go about hiring the right nonprofit consultant?

Too often, consulting firms battle for who is best based on “years of experience”. This argument essentially equates longevity with success. Just because a consultant has had “years” of experience, doesn’t mean they are right for you. 

Here are three overarching factors that will help you in hiring the right nonprofit consultant.

  1. Are they qualified? – In her book, “Donor Focused Strategies for Annual Giving”, Karla Williams lists a range of criteria to indicate if a consultant is qualified. For example, “past performance, capacity to assess readiness, capability to handle type and size [of project]”. These criteria all point to the question, “can this consultant get the job done?” This is certainly an important question and one that must be asked and satisfied. It should not be the only question though. There are others that are also critical.
  2. Do you respect them? –  At one point or another in most consulting engagements I have participated in, it was important to discreetly and gently share with the client that they needed to change their approach to create greater success. Essentially, I was saying that the client was part of the problem. If you think of it, that is the consultant’s job: to coach the client to change their ways to become more effective. It doesn’t matter how qualified your consultant is, if you don’t respect him or her, then that critical counsel will fall on deaf ears. Ultimately, your consulting investment will be wasted if you can’t receive both the consultant’s encouragement and constructive criticism.
  3. Do you like them? – Social media has in many ways watered down the word “like.” However, considering the original meaning of the word, “do you like your consultant?” For most engagements, you will be intensely working with your consultant for many months, if not years. If you don’t enjoy your time with your consultant, life is going to be pretty miserable. Dreading your meeting with your consultant will eventually translate into a loss of respect for them and a waste of time and money. No one wants that. If you don’t like your consultant, find another one.

I love being a consultant. It is a joy and privilege to walk with my clients through big projects and challenging transitions. It is more of a joy to personally get to know my clients and care for them in their season of growth. I am grateful to maintain that relationship with so many of my clients after our formal engagement.

The success I, and so many of my colleagues at DickersonBakker have enjoyed, is in large part due to the fact that our clients have not hired us on price or qualifications alone. Instead they have also considered the two fit factors: that they respect and like us. It is my hope that whatever qualified consultant you hire, you will both respect and like them.

Looking for a true partner to help your nonprofit take the next step? DickersonBakker has been a proud partner and friend with hundreds of nonprofits throughout North America. Contact us today to learn how we can advance your nonprofit.

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