Has your group hired a consultant before? Did you get the results you were hoping for? These top tips aim to help you get the most out of working with a consultant.
1. Work out why you want to hire a consultant - Is it because you feel you don’t have time to do the work or because you need specific expertise: for example, planning or architecture? If you are hiring someone because you’re really busy, remember you will still need to make some room in your diary for recruitment, interviews and meetings.
2. Consider value for money - Is the investment worthwhile? If in the long term your group will need fundraising or marketing skills, could you find funding or support to develop the group? For example, for small fundraising projects or grant applications it may be more cost-effective to train a staff member or volunteer.
3. Write a brief - This should cover the tasks that you want the consultant to achieve and be as specific as possible about quality, resources and timescales.
4. Make a “to do list” for the consultant and add dates - Now you have a work plan for the consultant. Add in regular times when you or a colleague or board member are available to meet, to brief and support the consultant – otherwise you run the risk of not getting a good result.
5. Get recommendations - Most people know a colleague or friend who has set up in business as a consultant but make sure you ask for formal recommendations/ references based on work carried out.
6. Get quotes – You could be paying the equivalent of a staff member’s weekly salary in a day rate for a consultant so make sure that you go through a competitive process for hiring someone.
The Institute of Fundraising's directory of consultants could be useful when you get to the quotes/ recruitment stage.
7. Follow the Institute of Fundraising's guidelines on working with Third Parties (including consultants).
8. Manage risk – If a fundraising consultant mentions taking commission out of future grant funding payments or taking a cut if the bid is successful, be very, very wary and check out the funding guidance of the applications that are made. Commission and payment for services already carried out (retrospective payments) are usually ineligible costs for grant funding. If these are hidden and you use funds to pay the consultant, then you may be liable to repay all or part of your grant. Finally, some funders will only accept funding bids written by the group so check the guidance.
Finally, before you make your decision about whether or not to hire a consultant, take a look at the free or low-cost services that can help your group to save money on professional advice.