– Choosing a Nonprofit Consultant
You are a nonprofit and you have come head strong into some insurmountable obstacles, you probably feel you really should be able to find a solution on your own, and you have tried some things, many things, in fact, everything you could think of, and at first those actions looked like they were going to be successful, but good old “adversity” strikes again. You are starting to question your abilities and maybe even your sanity. You realize you need help, but “who you gonna call?” Hint: It is not Ghostbusters!
First let’s get something straight! It is not a character flaw, lack of intelligence, or most importantly, a failure on your part. We could delve into the psychological and physiological effects that happen when we are over-whelmed, over-worked, or over-achieving, however, that is just another question or inquiry, when what you absolutely need is REAL, RELEVANT, AND RESPONSIBLE solutions!
The nonprofit consulting companies should offer their clients non-judgmental, unbiased, and practical solutions. They are another set of eyes, looking at the situation and based on their experience and expertise, are most likely to have insight and resources the client just doesn’t have access to. Whereas every consulting firm, whether they are strictly Nonprofit focused or not, has a different perspective, a different track record, and very different personalities and diverse cultures.
The one thing that most consulting firms, but not all, have in common is they advertise, proclaim, and boast they are the Biggest, Brightest, or Best firm on the planet! OK, so it may be overdramatizing a bit. However, if you have researched nonprofit consulting companies and looked at their internet presence, you understand exactly what is meant.
Obviously, if any company is one, much less all three, of those, they are probably going to have a hefty price tag associated with them (and they will!). Not to mention, if you are left contacting, interviewing, and deciding on which of the remaining firms to use, you have a daunting task ahead of you.
So, what is the solution? I am glad you asked. Unfortunately, the majority of the blog sites give you a checklist of those qualities a consulting firm should have. When in reality, only you and your organization can accurately determine what you are looking for in a consultant company. You may base your decision on the need for a specialist in a specific area, a desire for a company with a long list of clients, (which are typically posted as a variety of logos on their website) and testimonials, or like most nonprofits, it ultimately comes down to financial ability to pay for services and what you can afford.
Regardless of your reason for needing to choose a consultant, be aware of “tricks of the trade” in marketing. When you search for your specific location for a consulting company, such as “Your Town, USA nonprofit consulting”, you will find most of the companies listed are not from that specific area, but due to Artificial Intelligence technology, they can have any town or city fit in their description like a form letter. All they need to do is exchange one location for another over and over again for everywhere they want to do business, and for a nominal fee, the search engine companies are happy to do that.
Another “trick” is testimonials. This deception is based on the fact we live in a very hurried world and human nature tend. tendencies. We are so limited in our attention span, we expect, and only see the highlight reels of most testimonial letters, the snippet could have been part of grievance letter, or even written sarcastically, but you only see the “spin” they put on it. I mentioned human nature, because most nonprofits or specifically the person finding the consultant firm, won’t take the time to follow up on referrals or the accuracy of the letters presented.
The impressive web pages, the dynamic captions, the amazing testimonials, the unbelievable displayed prices (which probably are!), and more, all can entice you to go with that company. Honestly, given our current lifestyles, who could blame anyone? Case and Point! Do you actually read the terms and conditions of an app before you download it? I didn’t think so!
Once again, I go back to, a good consulting company is accepted and used, because of their attitude and your willingness to give them a chance. If you have a personal connection with an active member of the consulting firm, or you are recommended to use them by a friend, an acquaintance, or any trusted source, and… they have a free initial consultation, don’t hesitate to contact them and ask, “what can you do for my organization?” or “why should my nonprofit consider using your company?”. Once you sit down and talk, the answers may pleasantly surprise you!
Many consultants offer a free initial consultation, usually 15 minutes to an hour. The goal of that meeting is to determine if your nonprofit and the consulting company are compatible. It is not to provide a specific solution (although that may happen in the conversation). Be advised, if you ask about your specific challenge, and the consultants are hesitant to answer you, try to understand, that probably is due to it being like “giving away the store”. Remember how the consultants typically earn their money, their incredible knowledge.