Foundation and nonprofit staff are
spread thin enough. And sometimes expecting hardworking staff to
strategize and carry through an entirely new project, on top of
handling their ongoing responsibilities, is asking too much.
take some of the burden off of staff while providing a new perspective
and expertise. They may also increase your organization's credibility.
Here are the five reasons most foundations and nonprofits enlist the
help of outside consultants.
Staff temporarily busy, or not enough
staff? A consultant can fill in for a staff member on leave or serve as
a "staff extender" to an existing team. For example, one of my family
foundation clients was growing quickly. The CEO planned to hire more
program officers - after she developed new grantmaking programs.
Meanwhile she retained me to review proposals, conduct site visits, and
research new grantmaking strategies. She added staff capacity without
making any long-term commitments.
Rarely can we have all the skills we
need on staff at any given time. Consultants can fill in the gaps with
expert knowledge or with specialized skills in research, evaluation,
facilitation, strategic planning, marketing, and more. You can hire a
consultant with preexisting knowledge, or one without content expertise
who brings a fresh perspective.
The best solution is not always the
most obvious one. For example, if you want to get at the underlying
reasons teens don't succeed in school, an outside consultant can
provide much-needed objectivity. A consultant can be a "neutral voice,"
conducting objective research, assessing opportunities, and developing
Nonprofits often feel they can't
disclose their real challenges - they're worried that they'll lose your
funding. An outside consultant, however, can inspire a sense of
confidentiality, then explain the issues and concerns to you without
sharing exactly who raised them. Nonprofits, grantees, and stakeholders
often feel more comfortable telling a consultant what's really
happening and what's really needed.
A consultant can increase a project's
credibility in the eyes of the target audience. For example, an
organization seeking to replicate a program across multiple states
might hire a nationally known evaluation firm to inspire confidence
among national funders. For a grassroots effort, you might hire a
community-based consulting firm with experience in your target region.
No matter what your goal, hiring a consultant may be the right next step. For more information, click here to learn more about working effectively with consultants.
© 2014 Kris Putnam-Walkerly. All rights reserved. Permission granted to excerpt or reprint with attribution.