As you prepare for a capital campaign, you may wrestle with whether to hire a consultant. And, you might be wondering how to do so.
If you’ve never held a capital campaign before, you may have the misguided view that a consultant will take the reins and actually conduct and manage your campaign. However, this is a major, but common, misconception!
Quick Links — In this post, you’ll get the skinny about capital campaign consultants through the following points:
- What Do Capital Campaign Consultants Do?
- Hiring a Capital Campaign Consultant
- Do You Need a Capital Campaign Consultant?
Are you ready to discover how a capital campaign consultant can help your team and how to hire one? Or, if a consultant doesn’t seem to meet your needs, the other resources that can better fill that gap?
Let’s get started!
What Do Capital Campaign Consultants Do?
Some nonprofit professionals assume that a capital campaign consultant will join the campaign, create a strategy, and carry out this plan to success. That’s not the case!
With the exception of the few firms that actually place staff members in your campaign development office, consultants don’t actually do the work. This means campaign consultants don’t:
- Solicit gifts.
- Identify donors who will give to your campaign.
- Recruit volunteers.
- Create campaign brochures.
- Track gifts.
Even when you pay a consultant a significant amount of money, you’ll find that you and your staff are still doing the work for the campaign.
So, what do consultants do? And how can they make a difference? Continue reading to find out.
How a Capital Campaign Consultant Can Actually Help Your Team
Capital campaign consultants aren’t third-party, embedded managers — they’re consultants. They provide valuable consulting services, giving their professional input to help guide your organization to success. While they give suggestions to your organization, it’s up to you whether to act on it or not!
Let’s explore some of the specific services consultants may provide:
- Direction and strategic planning. With a birds-eye, expert-informed view of your campaign, a consultant can map a path to success for your team to carry out.
- Conducting feasibility studies. This is one service consultants are well-known for, conducting and presenting your team with the results of a feasibility study.
- Training your leadership team. If you don’t feel like your leadership team is fully prepared, a consultant can step in and bring your key players up to speed, in addition to solicitation training for your entire committee and board.
- Maintaining your timeline. A capital campaign consultant will check in with your team regularly to ensure that tasks are completed and goals are met on time.
- Solving problems. Capital campaigns aren’t totally linear, and your consultant will step in to brainstorm creative solutions to setbacks.
The real value in hiring a capital campaign consultant is in having an outside expert to help with your plan and strategy, as well as keep you on track and accountable. If that’s what your organization is seeking, read on!
Learn more about these services and the various components of capital campaigns with our comprehensive FAQ guide.
Hiring a Capital Campaign Consultant
After exploring how a capital campaign consultant will (and won’t) assist your campaign, you may be considering hiring one. Consultants can be invaluable when it comes to giving you and your board members the confidence you need to proceed and the experience to keep you on track.
However, hiring a capital campaign consultant needs to be a careful decision as they can have quite an impact on your biggest fundraising effort. With that in mind, let’s explore the 4 key qualities you should look for in a great capital campaign consultant:
4 Important Qualities of Great Capital Campaign Consultants
Consultants worth hiring have a great deal of campaign experience. They know what works and what doesn’t, and through years of practice, they’ve developed an unerring sense of what organizations need to be successful.
Experienced consultants have seen all sorts of campaign challenges and successes alike. This has given them a treasure trove of examples and solutions that they can directly apply to your campaign.
Your consultant should speak with the kind of authority that makes people sit up and listen— an authority that’s earned with deep experience. This helps them mitigate different viewpoints among your campaign’s leadership and get your board and staff members moving in the same direction.
A paid outside consultant should bring a sense of discipline to you and your campaign.
In a busy development environment, there’s seldom time to get all of the work done. And when there’s no set deadline, it’s all too easy to push off campaign work. A capable consultant should provide these deadlines and accountability.
Consultants should schedule meetings with you well in advance, giving you ample time and information to help you prepare for them. Many consultants know full-well that the day or two before the meeting, you’ll be scrambling to get the expected work done.
Further, they may even check in with you between meetings to make sure you’re on track and that any questions are answered. Or, they may simply check in to provide a bit of encouragement!
As we’ve seen, a consultant will provide a roadmap for your campaign.
However, most campaigns require flexibility along the way. It’s rare that every single plan, scheduled out years in advance, will go exactly as expected! Your consultant should be ready to help you adjust your campaign plan to fit the on-the-ground realities of fundraising.
If the big gifts come in more slowly than expected, they should help you adjust expectations. And, if an unexpectedly large lead gift comes in, your consultant should advise you on how to shift your campaign to make the most of your windfall.
Lastly, but most certainly not least, your consultant should give you courage.
With a good consultant, you don’t have to make the big, scary decisions on your own. Instead, you’ll have a comrade in arms to discuss strategies with, to provide external insight, and to help you make the right decisions.
Now, after discussing the key qualities to keep in mind when researching potential partners for your campaign, let’s break down the process of hiring a capital campaign consultant.
Want to learn more about what to expect from a capital campaign consultant? Request your free strategy session today to talk with one of our experts.
How To Hire a Capital Campaign Consultant
While researching and hiring a capital campaign consultant will look different for every nonprofit, there are a few common threads that occur in the experience.
When hiring a consultant, follow these general steps:
- Decide to hire outside assistance. Most nonprofits choose to hire outside experts to support their capital campaigns because they are complex and most organizations have little campaign experience. Take the time early on to decide if you want to hire a consultant. Before hiring a consultant, outline your campaign’s objectives, preliminary goal, and rough timeline to discuss with potential consultants or advisors. Also, assess your team’s current skills and capabilities to evaluate what you will need for your campaign.
- Secure internal buy-in. Make sure the board and executive leadership agree with the need to bring in outside experts to help with your campaign. And then involve them in the selection process to avoid resistance when you are ready to hire someone.
- Define your nonprofit’s consulting needs. Capital campaign experts offer different forms of support. Do you want help developing your strategy? Or support in executing the strategy or part of it in one phase of the campaign? Speaking with a few experts will help you understand your options and refine your needs.
- Research consultants and begin conversations with your top picks. Consult peers in your sector, past clients of the consultant, and your team when narrowing down a list of candidates. Then, begin a values- and experienced-based conversation to truly discover the best fit for your organization.
- Interview the top 3 candidates. Along with your core committee, interview your top candidates. Ask questions about how they would approach your campaign, what services they would recommend, and how they work. Ask them to submit a proposal for your review.
- Review your options as a team. Form a small group of leaders and staff who will be playing important roles in the campaign. Review the consultants’ proposals individually and consider creating a scoring system for each reviewer to rank the proposals by criteria like “relevant prior experience with our mission,” “relevant prior experience with campaigns similar to ours,” “values alignment,” “alignment with our needs,” and more.
- Finally, choose a consultant for your campaign. Gather as a group and compare notes. Discuss your impressions of each candidate and the plans they’ve proposed, using your rankings as a starting point. Once a clear frontrunner emerges, make the decision and outline the terms of your agreement.
While this may seem like a lot of research, discussion, and preparation, it’s worth it! You don’t want to make the mistake of partnering with someone who doesn’t align with your values and can’t provide the help you need.
After all, capital campaign consultants can be expensive and you’re hiring one for what might be your biggest fundraising effort yet. The cost of capital campaign consulting can be folded into the overall campaign goal, but this brings added complexities and higher stakes.
Think carefully about your needs and what aspects of your campaign you could handle yourself. Hands-on experience backed by expert coaching can be a winning long-term combination—and much less costly than traditional consulting!
NOTE: Do NOT submit a request for proposal (RFP). Many organizations believe they should prepare an RFP. Preparing an RFP is a mistake — busy consultants rarely reply to RFP’s and believe them to be useless fishing expeditions. Not only that, most RFP’s, while well-intentioned, do not get to the heart of the matter. They encourage canned responses that might be more concerned with justifying costs than with explaining how they would tackle your campaign.
Now, here is one more important aspect we need to discuss in regards to hiring a consultant.
Does your campaign even need a capital campaign consultant?
Let’s find out.
Do You Need a Capital Campaign Consultant?
At Capital Campaign Pro, we know how powerful great consultants can be — we’ve been campaign consultants for many years.
However, that doesn’t mean we think that full-service consulting with a capital campaign consultant is the best option for all campaigns.
While providing valuable expertise, capital campaign consultants are often expensive, have less of an impact than many think, and do tasks that we believe many nonprofit professionals can handle on their own. They consult, but they certainly don’t run your entire campaign!
What we’ve found is that on-site consulting is much less of a necessity than you may think.
With our Toolkit, we’ve created a more efficient and effective way to empower you with the resources, strategy, and support you’d get from a traditional campaign consultant — and far more affordably.
Capital Campaign Pro – A New Approach to Capital Campaign Consulting
We believe that nonprofits are best served when they’re equipped with the tools, knowledge, and support to design and run their own campaigns.
While handing over the reins of your campaign to an outside expert can certainly simplify things, it can also make you miss out. There are so many valuable skills to be learned through a capital campaign. Learned well, with the assistance of an expert advisor, these should be long-term benefits for your whole organization.
At Capital Campaign Pro, we believe in a partnership approach. We’ve taken full advantage of the remarkable technologies available today — including easy access to online material and video conferencing software — to provide the experience, discipline, direction, and courage you need to run an effective campaign.
Our Capital Campaign Pro toolkit includes:
- A guided feasibility study that empowers you to interview key stakeholders and build relationships with your donors.
- An organized, customizable capital campaign plan, broken out into seven step-by-step phases to help you stay on track.
- Templates, checklists, assessments, and worksheets prevent important details from falling to the wayside.
- A team of expert campaign advisors to provide all the support, guidance, advice, and confidence you need.
- Access to an engaged community of other nonprofits planning and running campaigns of their own to share wins and pitfalls.
With Capital Campaign Pro, you have all the tools, resources, support, and guidance you need to run a capital campaign tailored to your organization’s unique goals and needs.
You and your campaign leaders have access to our experienced campaign advisors through email, phone, and video conferencing. No longer do you have to pay for travel and long days on-site, as with traditional consultants — our advisors are simply a click or a Zoom meeting away when a question arises during your campaign.
To learn more about how you can get the kind of expertise you need for your campaign, simply schedule a free strategy session. We’ll learn more about your situation and determine how you can get what you need for your campaign at a fraction of the cost.
In the meantime, explore these additional capital campaign resources to further your campaign:
- Capital Campaigns 101: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners
- Capital Campaign Case for Support: Crafting a Complete Plan
- How to Create a Capital Campaign Brochure: Our Top 4 Tips