So you need to boost your fundraising, develop a strategy or maybe you just need some advice on developing grant applications. You are thinking of engaging fundraising consultants to help but where do you start?
In this article we look at how you can make sure you find the right fundraising consultancy for your charity’s needs.
Firstly, you need to consider what you are trying to achieve and what skills and experience you are looking for from a consultant. Some consultants specialise in different fundraising disciplines, some specialise in supporting certain charitable sectors and some focus on charities of a certain size.
Sometimes charities won’t always know exactly what support they need until they talk their situation through with a consultant. A good fundraising company will always take the time to understand the wider context of support required and ensure that whatever services they provide are appropriate and will add substantial value to the clients’ development.
Next, you need to identify some potential consultancies.
- Asking for recommendations is a great starting point.
- The Association of Fundraising Consultants is a membership organisation that seeks to uphold the highest standards in fundraising consultancy. You can see their member directory here.
- The Institute of Fundraising has a directory split into consultants and suppliers. You can find the agencies in the supplier directory under the consultancy topic.
- Google is also a great way to find experienced fundraising consultants. If you can find them on Google then it’s a good sign that they have been around for a while and built up a solid track record of experience.
Spend some time looking through different consultants’ websites. You might want to consider questions such as: How long have they been in business? How much experience does their team have? Do they employ a team of consultants or are they just a group of independent associates? Can they demonstrate success with their existing clients? Does their client profile align with your charity’s work? Do they hold any industry or quality management certifications?
Contact two or three from your shortlist and be prepared to set out your organisations position. Good charity consultants will want to understand your situation in detail. They are likely to want to know:
- What service your organisation provides and where it works
- Your financial position and existing income sources
- Any specific issues or challenges you are facing
- Any specific areas of support you are looking for
You should also draw up a list of questions you want to ask them. This might include questions about: Their approach to service delivery and partnership working; their experience in your particular field; costs; timescales; input required from your team; contract terms; and, anything else you want to check.
Some pitfalls to be aware of:
- It is best not to be too prescriptive on the service you want unless you are 100% clear on what you need – a good consultant will help you shape your planned approach to achieve the best results.
- It is easy to base a decision on price alone but value for money is the really important metric – ask consultants to demonstrate how they achieve this. Support from a really great consultancy can enable charities to achieve substantial growth.
- Most consultants work on a day fee basis, so make sure your organisation has the budget to invest in consultancy support. Commission based fundraising is not recommended or endorsed by the Institute of Fundraising or the Association of Fundraising Consultants.
- It can be tempting for start-up charities to go straight to consultants to seek fundraising support but this often isn’t appropriate. Professional consultants tend to offer best value to organisations that are established and have a track record of service delivery.
If you want to proceed, you can then discuss next steps. This might be a meeting with some of your Senior Management Team and Trustees or you might want a written proposal to consider first. Let them know if there is any particular information you want included in a proposal or if there is a particular format or specific questions you want to cover in the meeting.
Once you have made a decision to go ahead with your preferred consultancy, let them know and they will prepare a contract for both parties to sign.
The most successful consultancy partnerships are where the client and consultant can build a strong trusting partnership, working together to achieve success. The more information you can share and the more you can engage with their planning and delivery, the more you will achieve together.