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Consultants Provide Structure and Accountability to Your Campaign

By May 8, 2015May 11th, 2015All Posts, Commentary

Why is it that people join a fitness club, hire a personal trainer or join a program like Weight Watchers® when they seriously want to lose weight? They could do it on their own. But they know if they invest some of their hard-earned money and enroll in a program where there are regular “checkups” on their progress, they will be held more accountable to achieving their goal.

So it is with fundraising consulting. When volunteers ask about our role in the campaign, we sometimes want to answer, “Well, we’re a lot like Weight Watchers®…”  Let us explain:
  • We offer suggestions, strategies and techniques.
  • We help keep you on a schedule and hold you accountable on your progress toward your goal.
  • We provide support, smile and pick you up and brush you off if you stumble.
  • We even inflict a little bit of pain.

A well-respected community volunteer and civic leader once said of a consulting firm: “I know they’re expensive.  But I can guarantee you if they come for a visit once and we have not done our homework, they won’t come a second time and find us unprepared.”

As consultants, it is really not our job to be the “hired gun” who takes responsibility for all the fundraising for you. Doing so is not in your best interest. The case, the goal and the relationships you build with volunteers and donors are yours, not ours. While it might be tempting to hire a fundraiser to conduct your campaign for you and handle your solicitations, in the end, you would be left with little as the fundraiser packs up with a rolodex full of contacts that he or she has cultivated through the course of your campaign.

Campaigns that are well-planned and executed should build capacity for your organization. Your consultant is there to guide you and your volunteers in a systematic manner – with time-tested techniques and innovative strategies that will help you navigate the bumps and detours in the road.

Your consultant should affirm your goal through a fundraising Feasibility Study and should offer a comprehensive campaign calendar– an action plan with specific timelines and accountabilities. He or she should help you design your campaign organization chart and form solid strategies to fill it with key volunteers. He or she should help construct compelling materials that present your case in terms your donors can easily understand and relate to.

Your consultant should provide adequate orientation (re: training) of your volunteers on successful recruitment and solicitation techniques and should build their confidence in the project and help them overcome potential objections.

Your consultant should help you move the process forward with regular contact with your steering committee and other key volunteers, make periodic visits to monitor progress and help you navigate the unique challenges and opportunities that are part of every campaign.

Finally, your consultant should help you organize a broad solicitation within your “community” and should help you set in place a recognition and stewardship program that will help you retain campaign donors to your annual efforts long after the campaign has concluded.

So, as a nonprofit leader or volunteer, what can you do to strengthen the partnership with your consultant and help ensure a successful campaign? 

  1. Educate yourself and your volunteers before starting the process

Seek information from reputable sources like the Association of Fundraising Professionals and The Giving Institute on best practices and what to look for in a consultant. Help volunteers understand the campaign process and a consultant’s role. 

  1. Hire a consultant who is a good match for your organization

If you’ve done your research before seeking proposals, most consulting firms you interview will offer you competent counsel and a strong track record with sound methods for conducting your campaign. What may be more important is that you and your volunteers “connect” with your consultant and feel that the firm’s philosophy and values align with your organization. 

  1. Engage your consultant early in the process

We believe the Feasibility Study is really the first step in your campaign. It is your first opportunity to preview your plans with top potential volunteers and donors in a way that lets them get involved and become enthusiastic about your project. Your consultant should partner with you in the important steps of planning for this study. 

  1. Don’t penny-pinch with your consultant’s time

The old adage that “it takes money to make money” holds true with campaigns. A campaign where you are asking the community to invest $10 million, $5 million or even $1.5 million is not the time to cut corners. If you have completely followed items 1 and 2, above, you should have the trust in your consultant to offer a campaign plan that achieves your goals in a cost-efficient manner. Ask your consultant to help you build a cash-flow budget for your campaign that allows you to manage campaign costs in relation to donations. 

  1. Capitalize on your investment

Recall the advice of the seasoned community volunteer earlier in this article. Be prepared for your consultant’s visit and be open to his or her advice. When staff work in concert with volunteers to make the campaign plan “work,” exciting things happen and success is sure to follow.

Hiring a consultant for your campaign can be a daunting, yet extremely energizing, step in your earliest plans for your campaign. In considering this step, remember programs like Weight Watchers® and how, with the right investment, a consultant can provide you with the right plan, ensure accountability and even inflict a little bit of pain to help you keep on track toward campaign success.

To further discuss how our JB+A consultants can help you and your organization achieve fundraising success, please feel free to contact me at or at 816.237.1999.  And we promise: more fun than pain! 

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