If you’re considering hiring a capital campaign consultant, it’s likely that someone on your leadership team wants to issue an RFP (request for proposal). However, most busy (aka “good”) consultants don’t respond to RFP’s. Why?
Because capital campaign consultants know that RFPs are not an effective way to get good work.
Therefore, when you issue an RFP, you’re likely going to get responses from consultants who need work, as well as the biggest firms that have teams in place to respond to RFP’s. To them, it’s a numbers game.
In either case, you probably won’t get the best consultant for your organization.
2 Reasons Capital Campaign Consultants Hate RFPs
There are two key reasons consultants hate RFPs and often don’t respond:
1. Square Peg, Round Hole
Most RFPs are too specific. They force consultants to answer questions in a uniform way, so clients can attempt to compare apples to apples.
However, this forces consultants into a square peg, round hole scenario. Their services often don’t fit the questions asked, so they twist themselves into knots trying to answer the questions asked. This is not the best way to learn about the services they offer.
2. It Feels Like a Fishing Expedition
Most RFPs are sent to 10 or more consultants. Many are sent in the hopes that a few will respond.
For consultants, it feels like a fishing expedition and a waste of time. Please only send RFPs to a select group of consultants you’ve researched and are interested in potentially working with.
A Better RFP to Hire a Capital Campaign Consultant (with Template)
Here’s how to issue an RFP that works for nonprofit leaders and consultants.
1. Hand-select four to five consultants and invite each to personally respond.
Select a small number of consultants to send your RFP. Let them know why they are receiving the RFP and that they are part of a select group.
Start by doing research and outreach. Ask board members and colleagues for recommendations. Find out who similar organizations have used to lead successful campaigns. Then check out those consultant’s websites to narrow your search to the top four or five.
You will want to include one small firm, one large firm, and one in the middle on your list. You should also consider a local and a national firm to see what each has to offer.
Reach out to those you’ve selected and let them know why you are interested in exploring the opportunity to work with them. If you send the RFP to “Dear Consultant,” it will likely end up in the trash.
2. Make your RFP as generic and general as possible.
Most RFPs are too specific. Nonprofit leaders believe they know what they want, even when they’ve never run a campaign. The expression, “you don’t know what you don’t know” applies here.
If you tell a consultant what you’re looking for in an RFP, you miss the opportunity to learn. Instead, ask consultants to share what they think you need and how they would help. This will provide you with wonderful insight as to what it would be like to work with that consultant.
Remember — the process of hiring a consultant is an opportunity for you to learn.
3. Be prepared to speak with consultants prior to them responding to your RFP.
Do not issue an RFP and expect consultants to complete it in a vacuum. A good consultant will ask questions about your organization and your capital campaign before deciding whether to respond. They will want to evaluate whether you are a good fit for them, and vice versa.
You will learn a lot about consultants that simply respond with a generic response.
Sample Capital Campaign Consultant RFP Template
We suggest using the following template to issue your RFP:
XYZ Organization is Planning a Capital Campaign
We are seeking the right consultant to work with our team.
[No more than 1 page total (preferably less)]
- Fundraising — [We raise $XXX annually in philanthropic dollars (not including government funding or fees for service).]
- Campaign History — [We have never had a campaign, or we completed a campaign for $XXX ten years ago.]
- Staffing — [We have 10 staff members. The ED and DOD would be primarily responsible for the campaign.]
Please let us know how you would help support our team plan and implement a campaign. Include experience, work format/style, pricing, timelines, and references.
Deadline: — [Date]
Director of Development
That’s it! No bells, whistles, or frills necessary. Keep it simple.
A Few Final Tips
Don’t worry about comparing apples to apples. There’s no such thing in the consulting world.
Your selection is going to come down to style and personality. Who do you want to work with? Who is a good match for your team?
Also, don’t select a consultant based on price. For example, Capital Campaign Pro is often on the lower end of the pricing scale. But I never want anyone to pick us because we’re the cheapest. Our clients choose to work with us because they know they’re going to get amazing service, support, and results.
Find Out if You’re Ready for a Campaign
Download any of our four free assessment tools to help you determine whether you are truly campaign-ready.