Home » Nonprofit Consulting » Capital Campaigns » How to Choose a Fundraising Consultant

How to Choose a Fundraising Consultant

No one responded to your RFP? Try this instead.

RFPs, or requests for proposals, are a popular process for organizations to find and vet a capital campaign consultant. Unfortunately for organizations, most philanthropic consultants hate them, and many won’t respond.

Why? Because most are poorly constructed: someone who doesn’t know what they need writes guidelines for a project they don’t understand, assigning an arbitrary budget and unrealistic timeline. Then they mass mail it to a bunch of consultants they know nothing about. We call this the spray and pray method of consultant shopping.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen well-crafted RFPs and sometimes we’ve responded. But the fact is, RFPs often create more questions than they answer. They often don’t include the information potential consultants need to evaluate fit. Too often, they ask for inappropriate items, like a sample of work (spoiler alert: that belongs to the former client who paid for it).

There’s a better way to hire a fundraising consultant but it’s a little old-fashioned: pick up the phone or send three emails reaching out to professionals who provide campaign services. Ask for a courtesy consultation about your project. Professional campaign consultants will provide a courtesy consult (unless they are at capacity). If they want to charge you for an hour to evaluate whether they would work with you, they aren’t following the Association of Philanthropic Counsel’s Standards of Professional Conduct. APC’s Code of Conduct is one of the strictest in the field and it exists to ensure a clear and confirmed understanding of expectations, methods, and results for the best consulting outcomes.

The best thing about a courtesy consult is it’s an opportunity to unabashedly ask questions:

  • What is a feasibility study and why do I need it?
  • What does a consultant do that we can’t do ourselves?
  • What’s your philosophy about working with reticent board members?
  • What if my CEO is afraid of asking for gifts?
  • How much time will our staff spend on a campaign?
  • How much will this all cost and how long will it take?

Not sure you are ready to retain a consultant? Now is a wonderful opportunity to plan for a budget for future years when you are ready. You can always ask a consultant for their statement of qualifications and keep these on hand for when you are ready to solicit proposals.

Does your organization’s leadership require you to use the RFP process? Try this new platform to craft the most clear, concise RFP possible and connect with a wide range of potential consultants nationwide. If you do issue an RFP, remember that you will get the best consulting fit if you are willing to take questions and engage with your proposers. We, and many of our colleagues, simply don’t respond to RFP processes that don’t allow for dialogue or questions.

Take your time to talk with colleagues about their experiences with campaign counsel. Retaining a great consultant doesn’t have to be awkward, time consuming, and confusing. With some outreach and early-stage conversations, you may find that the process of evaluating consulting fit is easier than you think.

Have a project on the horizon? Reach out for a discovery call.

1 thought on “How to Choose a Fundraising Consultant”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.