cartoon consultant standing next to graph with a large arrow pointing upward3 Mistakes That Nonprofits Make Hiring Consultants

And How to Avoid Them

You are excited to find someone who can help solve a pressing problem.

You look forward to making progress on a long-standing goal. You are ready to invest, and you want your investment to pay off handsomely. How can you maximize the benefits and minimize the risk of working with outside counsel? As you grow in excellence, you will ask questions like this many times. You already know that the right help and the right relationship are effective tools to swiftly reach your goals. To maximize your investment, here are some common mistakes that nonprofits make when hiring consultants and suggestions on how to avoid them.

Match Game – You believe you know what you need. You develop a request for proposal (RFP) that involves consultants providing written bids. The consultant is selected. The work is done as described. The change doesn’t materialize. Why? It turns out that you described the symptoms and not the roots of the problem. You rushed to solutions.

Resolution: Meet with a consultant whom you trust and who has an excellent reputation. Discuss your objectives. Request a bid with several options and different investment levels. You benefit in several ways. First, you create realistic objectives. Second, you benefit from the consultant’s advice in diagnosing your situation. Working with a consultant is a partnership forged to obtain your goals.

Deal or No Deal – You want to work with a consultant. Compared to staff, their upfront costs seem expensive.  However, in the past, a free facilitator de-motivated your board. You know the cost of poor help. How can you justify this investment and be confident that you are making a good decision?

Way Out: Reframe your thinking around. Consider the effort in terms of the value. What is your potential return on investment? What is the value to be gained as an organization and for you professionally and personally? A good consultant provides value many times his or her fee. Reflect on the alternatives. What will it cost you if you fail to achieve them‚ or worse, move farther from them? Just as with other major purchases, consider the investment from a value perspective.

Beat The Clock – You have so much to do. You hire a consultant to help you. Now, you have even more to do!

Answer: Any issue important enough to involve outside counsel will require a time investment and partnership. Set up a calendar in advance. Work with the consultant to determine where your input is critical and alternative resources. Create work plans that minimize your workload without compromising results. Consider resetting priorities or even making chaos management part of the project.

This article helps you to avoid three common mistakes nonprofits make when they work with consultants. Now that you know take action to maximize your investments working with outside help.

Related Resources

How Can a Nonprofit Consultant Help, Part 1, 2, and 3

10 Time Management Tips for Elephant-Sized Projects

Time Management for Nonprofit Organizations

For more answers, check out this Nonprofit  CEO Library.

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