Organizations that need the services of a nonprofit development consultant will be aware of it even if they’re unfamiliar with the services that these professionals provide. If your nonprofit is experiencing growing pains or an inability to increase fundraising capacity despite strong engagement metrics, it’s probably time to find a development consultant.
These experts can support your organization in a number of key areas, all of which are related to the financial and physical growth of your nonprofit. Simply put, a nonprofit development consultant can help you scale up your organization’s operations in a realistic and sustainable way.
If your organization needs the services of a development consultant, that means you’ve already successfully secured a strong base of support and developed a healthy bottom line. It also means you’ve probably worked with another fundraising, technology, or prospect research consultant in the past. You might even have your own in-house development program or director.
However, many organizations are unfamiliar with the exact roles that a development consultant plays and the benefits they can bring to organizations that are ready for their help. Let’s walk through 6 key questions you might have about nonprofit development consultants:
Here at Donorly, we strive to help nonprofits make the smartest decisions possible when it comes to their fundraising and growth. Understanding your needs as they arise and the options available to your organization are essential for creating the kind of infrastructure you’ll need to continue growing, reach wider audiences, and boost your impact.
For many nonprofits, development consultants are the perfect partners to ensure they can pursue their mission well into the future. Let’s get started:
1. What does a nonprofit development consultant do?
The role of a nonprofit development consultant encompasses a wider range of support than just donor research or capital campaign planning, although both of those are still essential elements of nonprofit development.
A development consultant provides guidance on new techniques and your underlying strategies in the broader context of your organization’s structure, health, and capacity. Their insights and plans will then be directed towards growing your fundraising capacity and adjusting any other existing processes that need some work.
The most important point to remember about nonprofit development is that barriers to growth aren’t always located within your fundraising strategies or funding process. A nonprofit development consultant, then, can pinpoint problems that your team might be unaware of, has grown too accustomed to, or simply didn’t realize was a problem at all. These might include:
Issues with your board recruitment or motivation
Mission drift or irrelevance to new donors
Vague or undefined communications strategies
Poor internal structures or unclear chains of command
Nonprofit development involves more than simply increasing your capacity to raise money; identifying and resolving any obstacles to that capacity growth is the key to sustainable development. With expert insights and fresh perspectives on your operations, a nonprofit development consultant will help you find these issues and develop strategies to solve them, all working towards increasing capacity.
After all, increased capacity requires a strengthened foundation to support and maintain it.
2. How do they help nonprofit organizations?
Nonprofit development consultants analyze your operations, identify problems, and craft solutions with the final goal of increasing your fundraising capacity and growing your organization. But what specifically might that entail?
In the course of their engagements with nonprofits, development consultants might provide a number of more specific services, like:
Financial consultation. A consultant can examine your funding mix and internal systems to determine its overall health and find any necessary changes you’ll need to make as your organization grows.
Campaign planning and support. This might include capital or endowment campaigns and any accompanying events, all of which will likely include elements of prospect research.
Strategic communication support. A development consultant will help you draft more effective proposals and case statements and refine your overall marketing strategies as you work to increase capacity.
General analysis and recommendations. Their new perspectives on your flow of funding, fundraising processes, and internal structures make nonprofit development consultants invaluable resources.
Organizations usually take on a nonprofit development consultant at a very specific time in their growth — when they’re preparing to enter a new level of fund development. The reason this entails so much hard work and careful consideration of all your processes is because it extends beyond just your fundraising and funding strategies. Nonprofit development doesn’t call for a niche expert; a more generalized authority with a wide range of experience in nonprofit funding, development, and prospecting is a much better bet.
Few nonprofits, no matter their size or whether they have their own dedicated development program, have the ability to take such a critical and comprehensive look at themselves. Instead, the right nonprofit development consultant can help your organization quickly find its weak points and develop a full battle plan for growth.
3. hOW DO YOU FIND THE RIGHT DEVELOPMENT CONSULTANT?
Finding the right consultant for your nonprofit can be a major challenge, particularly if your team doesn’t have much collective experience with interviewing and hiring consultants.
If that’s the case, our guide to hiring a prospect research consultant is a great launching pad. Familiarize yourself with its basic ideas, and then consider how you might adjust the process to find an expert guide with wider experience rather than niche focus. Here’s a rough outline of how you might proceed:
Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your current fund development strategies with your board before getting started.
Identify consultant candidates by using directories, searching online, and asking colleagues in other nonprofits that have successfully scaled their operations and capacity upwards.
Ask your first round of potential consultants for some background information and then discuss it with your board. Choose a few consultants to interview. Their references and histories should give you a good idea of the scope of their experience.
Conduct the interviews in person whenever possible, and include two or three members of your board.
Request proposals from the top candidates after conducting interviews. Ask them to provide any additional insights they’ve had about potential problems in your existing structures or processes.
Note that you should ask your candidates for proposals only after conducting interviews and having a chance to ask each other questions. Because of the comprehensive nature of nonprofit development, it’s important that a consultant get a fuller sense of your organization’s operations, mission, and goals before developing a strategy.
Any consultant who offers a one-size-fits-all solution is almost never the best choice!
4. How much does a nonprofit development consultant cost?
As with any specialized consulting service, nonprofit development requires a fully customized approach. Therefore the final costs for their services will vary greatly depending on the scope of your engagement, your goals, and your timeframe.
Of course, your nonprofit development consultant’s pricing structures will play a major role in determining the final cost for your development project. Nonprofit consultants typically price their services in one of these three ways:
Customized per-project fees
Flat monthly or annual fees for retained services
Hourly pricing for scheduled support
Certain types of nonprofit consultants naturally favor one pricing structure over another. Technology consultants, for instance, typically work on a per-project basis, while fundraising consultants usually arrange goal-based fees before starting work. Donor research consultants often offer a more flexible approach with retained services, hourly, and even membership-style pricing structures.
Nonprofit development consultants typically operate on a monthly fee structure. This allows them the flexibility to tailor their work to your exact situation, needs, and goals, while also ensuring the delivery of actionable strategies in the short-term.
Of course, every nonprofit development project is completely unique, so it can be difficult to pin down any average costs.
However, flexible pricing options for more specific services can be an excellent indicator of quality when it comes time to compare consultants. Donorly’s membership structure and package plans for donor research are one example:
Any nonprofit development consultants you consider will most likely also offer specific services like donor research, event planning, or technology support. Offering flexible options for these services indicates that the consultant prioritizes their clients’ schedules and needs above their own. While the configurable pricing options above apply only to donor research, these kinds of flexible structures are a great way to ensure that you’re getting exactly the services you need at each stage of the nonprofit development process.
Of course, hiring a nonprofit development consultant for more comprehensive analysis and strategy support will entail higher but more customized monthly fees based on the specifics of your project and goals. Big-picture development consultation is a major project that requires a partner, not an out-of-the-box solution. As you begin researching your options, remember that clearly understanding your own goals goes a long way to help prospective consultants provide you with more precise quotes and prices.
5. How do you establish actionable goals with a consultant?
Nonprofit development requires actionable goals. That is, your nonprofit development consultant can help you identify and resolve issues in your funding and operations, but without a central growth goal to direct all your efforts, you’ll end up with piecemeal set of solutions but no clear way to increase your capacity and funding.
Data is essential for establishing nonprofit development goals that are truly actionable. You and your consultant will be building a comprehensive strategy around these goals, so they must be exact, not vague. Your organization might already use management or database software that directly supports your development goals with features like these:
Comprehensive and customizable donor profiles
Prospect research tools, like access to wealth screening services
Opportunity management for developing major and planned gifts
Capital campaign support with budget, payment, and communications tools
You should already have a somewhat general idea of your goals — increase fundraising capacity by X%, or increase the baseline of your annual fund by $X, for instance. Remember, though, that part of your development consultant’s job is to help you crunch the numbers, analyze your structures, find room for improvement, and determine an ambitious but realistic goal for your nonprofit’s development.
That’s why using the right tools is essential for any nonprofit with a serious attitude towards its future growth. Nonprofit CRMs offer full suites of advanced and integrated features; if you haven’t invested in more robust donor management software since your last major growth spurt, it might be a good idea to explore your options for upgrading your data infrastructure.
6. How can Donorly help with nonprofit development?
Here at Donorly, our focus on research and collaboration informs everything we do for nonprofit organizations, and it gives us a serious edge.
Donor and other specialized research is the foundation of any sustainable development plan. We work with a wide range of prospecting tools to provide nonprofits with refined and extremely actionable results. From identifying your next major donor to clearing the way for sustained development and growth, we can help your organization succeed.
We prioritize taking a collaborative attitude with all new projects. This means our strategies are completely customized to the scope of your needs and your goals. Any consultant should know that understanding your organization and mission is the key to developing a truly successful strategy that delivers results.
However you choose to approach your next development challenge, make sure you partner with a nonprofit development consultant who takes the time to craft a fully personalized strategy that draws from a wide range of resources and methods.
Nonprofit development can be a complicated project to tackle simply because it encompasses so many aspects of your organization’s operations and processes. If you’re looking for guidance as you try to prepare your nonprofit for a new stage of its growth, start by researching nonprofit development consultants.
For a long-term project you might not be able to afford not having an expert partner by your side.
To continue your research on nonprofit consulting, be sure to explore some additional resources:
How to Do Prospect Research: The 3 Main Strategies. Identifying potential major donors is an essential part of deliberately growing your nonprofit. Learn the basics with our quick guide.
Top 11 Prospect Research Tools by Double the Donation. Round out your toolkit before taking on a development consultant to ensure you’ll able to put any new insights into practice right away.
Hiring a Prospect Research Consultant: 5 Considerations. Hiring a nonprofit development consultant and a prospect research consultant require similar steps with a few differences. Check out our guide to compare the two processes.