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How to Find, Hire & Fire Nonprofit Consultants

How to Find, Hire & Fire Nonprofit Consultants

By Koby Langer, Whole Whale

The good news: there are a ton of great nonprofit consultants out there. The bad news: there are also a ton that might not be the right fit for your project. So, how do you know who to hire? And, just as importantly, how do you part ways with ones who aren’t working out?

The tips below will help you from the start of the process to the end, from the very first step of identifying your needs to the final step of ending your relationship with your consultant (if needed). 

1. Define the problem you need help with

Before you even start looking for a consultant, you need to know the problem you’re trying to solve. Are you looking for help auditing and improving diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging at your organization? Look for DEI consultants. Need help defining your fundraising programs and events? Look for fundraising consultants. Identifying the problem will help you narrow the pool of potential consultants

If you don’t define your specific objective up front, you’ll make it harder to find someone who can actually help you. Get specific about the goals you want to achieve and the areas where you need help. That way, when you start talking to potential consultants, you can see if they’re a good fit because you know what you need.

2. Do your research

There are a lot of great resources out there to help you find nonprofit consultants. Nonprofit.ist is, though, and has an incredible network of proven nonprofit consultants ready to have a quick conversation. You can also talk to your network of nonprofit professionals and see if they have any recommendations. You can search online directories like Idealist or Pro Bono Net. And, of course, don’t forget about Google! A simple search for “nonprofit consultants” should give you plenty of options to choose from. 

3. Make sure they have experience with your challenge

Consultants aren’t cookie cutter. Some may have lots of experience with large organizations, while others may specialize in working with small nonprofits. There are some that specialize in specific issues like fundraising or marketing. It’s important that you find someone who has experience working with challenges like yours. 

4. Ask for references and check them out

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of potential consultants, make sure to ask for references from each one. Then, actually follow up and talk to those references. Find out if they were happy with the consultant’s work and if they would recommend them to others. This is one of the best ways to get a feel for whether or not someone will be a good fit for your organization.

5. Set clear expectations from the start

Before you even start working with a consultant, it’s important that you set some ground rules. This includes things like defining the scope of work, setting deadlines, and agreeing on deliverables. By doing this, you can avoid any misunderstandings down the road and make sure that everyone is on the same page from the start. 

The consultant you work with will probably have their own agreements and paperwork for you to sign to begin your work together. Make sure you read it and have a clear understanding of what you expect from each other. 

6. Communicate regularly

Once you start working with a consultant, it’s important to stay in communication with them. This way, you can provide feedback on their work, ask questions, and give them any updates that might be relevant to their work. This is also a chance for them to do the same. By keeping the lines of communication open, you can make sure that everyone is always on the same page. 

7. Be prepared to let them go if necessary

Even if you do everything right, there’s always a chance that things just won’t work out with a particular consultant. It may just not be a great fit work-wise or you may have differences of opinion on how to move forward. If that happens, don’t be afraid to let them go and look for someone else who may be a better fit for your needs. It’s better to end things sooner rather than later so that you can find someone who will actually be able to help you achieve your goals.

Looking for additional resources that can help you navigate the relationship with your consultant? Visit our Nonprofit Resources page with our free Getting Started with Your Consultant toolkit, 5 Questions to Answer Before You Call a Consultant, and 5 Things Your Consultant Wants You to Know

Join Nonprofist.ist as a nonprofit member today to start searching for a consultant and begin the conversation! 

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