The Fruition Coalition has offered consulting services to nonprofit organizations for more than 20 years. As the founding director, I have both been a consultant and worked in partnership with other consultants. Through these experiences, I have learned that consultants can be invaluable to helping nonprofit organizations – and the communities with which they work – flourish.
Yet, consultants cannot (and should not) be relied upon to address all of the challenges and opportunities that come before an organization. Here are five reasons that nonprofit organizations should consider hiring a consultant.
1. We need short-term or one-time assistance for a special project
If your organization wants to undertake a specific project, like create a leadership development program or develop a strategic plan, it makes sense to work with a consultant to guide the process and provide access to resources such as their expertise. It does not always make sense to hire a new employee, or unfairly burden an existing employee with additional responsibilities, when these needs arise.
2. We do not have the expertise to begin/implement a project or address a challenge
Because consultants specialize in one or more specific areas, they can share the wisdom that develops through working with multiple organizations, participating in education, and/or refining processes over a significant period of time. If your organization wants to, for example, create a new website and nobody within the organization has any idea how to do this, then it makes sense to work with a consultant who can guide you through the process and create an online presence that reflects your organization’s purpose and activities.
3. We do not have the staff capacity to start something new or address a challenge
Staff of nonprofit organizations, particularly smaller organizations, typically have multiple responsibilities. Most of us enjoy the work and don’t mind contributing what we can. Unfortunately, many employees in nonprofit organizations are overstretched and encumbered with special projects when they do not have the time, resources, or ability to effectively undertake them. If your staff is already stressed, then it may make sense to work with a consultant who can not only complete the project but also reduce the stress of your staff.
4. We would benefit from another perspective or a specific process
As a former executive director, I know that staff of nonprofit organizations are so busy doing their daily work that it can be difficult to step outside of routines to think bigger or differently about our work. Consultants may be able to reposition the organization’s needs, see the bigger picture, and/or understand the intricate connections with other issues and processes. In addition, consultants may be aware of resources such as processes, approaches, or funding that would be beneficial to the organization.
5. We are stuck and need someone to help us move forward
If your board and/or staff are unable to take action because of disagreement or uncertainty, a consultant can help facilitate conversation to illuminate common ground. Consultants can also help reverse engineer organizational goals. In other words, they can help organizations identify all of the steps that they need to take to do something new or different.