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How and When to Hire Nonprofit Consultants

Nonprofit organizations play a unique role in the commercial world. Not entirely separated from the corporate climate, nonprofits are also expected to provide support for a particular purpose or goal. Walking this line requires lean staffing, and the occasional need to hire nonprofit consultants. Nonprofits compete in a crowded market and need to adopt some capitalistic practices to succeed. Still, care is needed to be sure the mission isn’t compromised by being overly opportunistic. Here are tips to know when (or when not) to hire a consultant to fill the gaps in your staff skill set.

Hiring a Nonprofit Consultant

how to hire nonprofit consultants

Possible nonprofit consultant roles

What are the most common roles a nonprofit outsources? Generally, you can think of these areas of expertise as being any part of nonprofit operation not directly related to the mission.

  • Governance– These are highly specific consultants who may do anything from conduct feasibility studies to full board or staff training. This would be a significant investment of time and money for a nonprofit.
  • Fundraising– Consultants in this arena could vary in scope and investment. A long-term project might be a total capital campaign overhaul. It could also be as simple as hiring a freelance grant writer to handle a few extra applications.
  • Marketing– This field tends to be project based, and therefore a little easier to budget time and money. For example, a nonprofit might outsource certain graphic design needs or digital marketing upgrades. Depending on your on-staff skill set, website updates are often contracted out, as well.

The Pros and Cons of Hiring Nonprofit Consultants

Professional consultants are seeing a huge boon right now, and for good reason. The world is increasingly changing, and the problems that you face as a company during the opening quarter of the year may be totally different than the next. Expecting your employees to keep up with the issues is fine, but relying on them to become experts in those fields overnight is unrealistic. Inefficient skills and knowledge lead to budgetary risks for your non-profit.

On the other hand, consultant work comes with significant limitations. It can be difficult to find consultants who consistently produce the quality you need. Trying out several different contractors until you find the right one can be costly and slow. Keep in mind that they will also have other clients to prioritize in their workload. You might not be the first on their schedule at all times.

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Before hiring a consultant, ensure they meet the following criteria:

  • Have appropriate experience and qualifications in similar corporate atmosphere
  • Understand the goal of the project and the mission of the non-profit
  • Will be able to complete project within-budget constraints and on-time
  • Use creative problem solving to address internal and external issues, as needed
  • Has favorable recommendations from previous clients

The price of hiring a consultant depends entirely on the issue and the expertise level of the consultant, but for the most part it is fair to say that consultants typically come at a pretty hefty price tag in the long run. At some point, a nonprofit needs to do the math on if it makes more sense to hire a staff member with the previously outsourced skill set.

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It’s important to remember consultants don’t actually work for the nonprofit. While they may have an idea for a course of action, keep in mind that the board needs to always be mindful of the nonprofit’s interests. When looking for a consultant, you need to consider the capacity at which you will bring them in, and the support team directly responsible for working with them.

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A consultant cannot replace a highly-dedicated and efficient staff. That doesn’t mean they can’t provide the springboard you need to get to that next level. Considering these tips will help you make the best decision for your nonprofit.


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