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Non-Profit Planning: How to Pick the Right Consultant

If you’re hiring a consultant for your nonprofit, it is probably to help with such tasks as event planning, board orientation and development, public relations and so on. Before you go out looking for candidates, make sure you know exactly what you need the consultant to do.

To get started, you can ask around. Talk to organizations that have had successful partnerships with consultants before. You can also come to groups such as the the Association of Fundraising Professionals or the Alliance for Nonprofit Management for help.

Evaluating Candidates

After gathering some leads, ask for an RFP (request for proposal) from each potential consultant. Go through their documents and interview those who have caught your attention. Concentrate on the most important aspects – expert knowledge and experience with projects like yours, an impressive track record, and a personal style that is likely to meld well with you and the team.

Person vs. Company

Another vital decision you have to make is whether you want to work with an individual or a firm. An individual may cost less, but with a firm, you get a broader perspective on issues as a result of several people working on your project. Also, ask every candidate give you at least three client references for performance assessment purposes.

Evaluating Proposals

Now it’s time to ask for proposals from those candidates who appear to be suited to your needs. On top of their experience and qualifications, other points you should be considered as you go through their proposal, including their grasp of your project’s goals; their ability to complete the project on time and on budget; their creativity in seeking more information about your project and organization; and reports from organizations they’ve worked with before.

Paying the Consultant

Consultants typically get paid by the hour or by project. The more common is the second, where the consultant submits a quote based on the scope of the work to be performed. Consultants often look at the time element when arriving at their fees, and should they end up working more than they had estimated, no extra charge will be collected. This protects the client’s budget against unforeseen costs.

On the other hand, if the client only needs guidance or help at random points across the process, hourly billing may be preferable. Should you decide to go with this billing model, make sure you know what exactly is included in the hourly rate (for instance, travel and accommodation, phone calls, office visits, etc.).

If you are really interested in a certain consultant but the cost exceeds your budget, talk to them and explore the possibility of narrowing down the scope of work while still meeting your most important needs.

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