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5 Things Your Consultant Wants You to Know

Nonprofit consultants can make a big difference in the success of a project or plan, but what do you need to do to make your partnership isn’t a dud? Here are just a few tips, gathered from our Nonprofit.ist experts and other consultants, on how to make the consultant connection a happy match that works for everyone, whether it's your first time hiring a consultant or your 10th.

RFPs are the Worst - Here's a Better Way to Find the Right Nonprofit Consultant for YouDo the prep work BEFORE you start looking for a consultant. 

While it would be lovely to meet with a consultant who can read your mind, sensing everything you need for your project, telepathy isn’t a thing (that we know of!) and you’ll have to do a little work to get that crystal communication off on the right foot. 

Before you even start looking for a consultant, you need to be clear on what you’re looking for. Otherwise, how will you know the consultant is the right fit?

Here are a few things you should figure out among your team:  

  • What is your specific project timeline and are you going to reasonably be able to meet your deadlines? 

  • Who is your audience for this work? The general public is not an audience! This is the time to be specific about who you’re talking to. 

  • What is your “big picture” on the project? What is your vision and direction?

Go into a little more depth about the whys and additional questions  in our article “5 Questions to Answer Before You Call a Consultant.” Find out how you can best find the right consultant for you in our article about why RFPs aren’t the solution.

Honesty is the best policy.

Most importantly in your prep work and communication: be honest and direct within your organization and in communicating with your consultant. Consultants aren’t here to judge - they’re here to help and they can’t do that without all the absolute facts. “I can't help plan strategy and implement change if you are not honest with me.” 

Ask yourself: are you willing and able to share all of the information your consultant will need? Are you open to making any agreed-on changes in your practices or project based on recommendations? If the answer is no, the time might not be right for you to hire a consultant. If you can’t be honest with yourselves, you can’t be honest with your consultant, wasting time and money.

Working with a consultant isn't a quick fix.

Not only are consultants not telepathic, they also aren’t miracle workers. While most consultants would love to wave a magic wand and produce your perfect project or plan instantly, working together takes time. If you bring in a consultant, remember that this may be a long process that includes getting to know each other, getting to know what you’re looking for, planning, and producing. Do not expect instant results from them if you wouldn’t expect it of yourself given the project scope.

Your work doesn't end when the consultant's begins.

Your consultant is also working with you, not for you. This means there will be more work on your part. You may need to engage your community stakeholders, do research, provide information, offer details and information, and much more. You know your organization better than anyone and your input and work will mean a successful outcome so be prepared to put in the time! Your effort is a partnership and both parties need to hold up their end of the bargain. One consultant put it best: “It’s a partnership, not a set it and forget it strategy. The work is done best when done together.”

Deadlines are deadlines.

If your nonprofit commits to deadlines, make sure you can, and do, meet them. If you can’t meet them, communicate that to your consultant and understand that the timeline will change as a result. “When [clients] cause delays in the process, it's likely to affect our other clients.  As a result, we may have to reschedule them to maintain the quality of work.” Work, especially good work, takes time. As the old saying goes, “a lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.” In other words, respect your consultant’s time because that means you’re respecting your work together.

Ready to start the process and get on the road to success? Sign up for your FREE nonprofit membership here. Have additional tips to add or want to learn more? Make sure you follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn to add your voice to the conversation.