Blog post by Madisyn Fairchild (4-minute read)
Working with nonprofit consultants is about meeting a guide who will help your organization blast off to new heights. Let’s break down what this really means and how to make the most of the relationship.
Meet your guide
Let’s acknowledge the thought process and decisions that led you to hiring a consultant for your nonprofit. You are ready to level up, to boost your organization into the next phase of success. Whatever the vision is, a good consulting team will want to help you make the most of this relationship (and your dollars). Before embarking on the scope of work, the first thing to understand is that working with consultants is a collaboration. Consultants are here to be your guide, while you are driving the project forward.
You are in this rocket, suited up, waiting for the countdown to start. You are filled with excitement, fear, anticipation and you wonder “am I ready for this new adventure?”
Our job as consultants is to make sure the answer to that question is a resounding “YES!” We may not be in the spacecraft with you, but we are your ground control: the reassuring voice that guides you through the process and gives you that wide-open view of the universe so that you and your team can navigate the mysterious unknown with the enthusiasm and confidence that your mission deserves.
Trust the process.
In our experience, clients are often nervous to step into the ship—and we don’t blame them! It can be vulnerable to allow outsiders to see the inner workings of your operations, let alone embark on new processes and strategies for your organization. But these new endeavors can be wonderful opportunities for sustainability and growth, and there is nothing more rewarding than looking back at your journey and celebrating the impact that overcoming those challenges have brought. We want this for you!
Alford Group prides itself on partnering with our clients as guides and teachers. We bring tools, trainings and over 40 years of experience to the table, and we are excited by the opportunity to learn how we can prepare, fuel and boost your organization to the success you are envisioning. And we do our best work when met with openness, trust, and your own expertise at the table as well.
Understand how our roles come together.
So, what does this really look like?
To give a clearer picture of how our roles intertwine, we break down what to expect for a feasibility study as an example. Although each organization is unique, we do know that for most, the following processes are common ingredients for initiating a successful study.
Here are our five tips for consultant-client synergy:
1. Identify an internal project manager to handle coordination
- Consultant: A feasibility study requires meetings, reviewing draft documents, convening stakeholder roundtables, providing organizational materials and history, and more. We provide a step-by-step process and recommendations for how to facilitate this communication.
- Client: Having a person designated from your team as the point person for Alford Group who is keeping track of this process helps everything go smoothly.
2. Prioritize this engagement across the organization
- Consultant: Let’s face it. We know your organization is already strapped for time, and managing an external relationship with consultants might seem like the least of some of your colleagues’ priorities. However, a transformational campaign is transformational for the entire organization, not just the development department. Everyone in a nonprofit has a role during a campaign, and we can help identify what these roles are and how to make the most of everyone’s efforts as efficiently as possible.
- Client: Socializing the upcoming feasibility study and eventual campaign as early as possible can help your co-workers see themselves within the process.
3. Identify study participants and make introductions
- Consultant: Alford Group knows the power that can come from a deep relationship between an organization and a passionate donor or volunteer, so we will provide the email copy and scheduling plans for all interviews and roundtables.
- Client: This is an opportunity to reach out to your donors and community partners to deepen or create your own relationship.
4. Bring the board along
- Consultant: Although your board may have approved moving forward with a feasibility study, it is important to bring them along for every step leading up to a campaign so that they are confident champions of it once the study is completed. We are big fans of the learning process! Alford Group can present findings and recommendations to your board after the study and even conduct Campaign 101 training if many members of your organization haven’t done a campaign before.
- Client: This means making time on board agendas for updates and communicating where Alford Group can best step in to educate the board, so everyone is on the same page.
5. Prepare for liftoff! And for change!
- Consultant: By the time Alford Group comes in, you have already made the conscious decision to make a huge change in your organization. And we all know that change takes time. While we can’t wave a magic wand to alter your organization’s culture and processes overnight, we can help you navigate those changes. We have been doing this work for a long time, and we have been in your shoes! It’s not easy work, but the payoff can be game-changing.
- Client: Alford Group encourages practicing patience with yourself, and all stakeholders involved. Recognize that your organization may need to do some serious re-wiring to prepare itself to ensure a successful journey ahead.
It’s time for blast-off!
Whether you embark on a feasibility study, development assessment or anything in between, working with consultants can provide the grounding you need to launch into the future, and this can only manifest through a combination of our expertise and data-driven analysis and your organizational knowledge and openness to change. We acknowledge that trusting a consultant with your organization’s future is no easy task. We honor the strength of this vulnerability and are grateful to be a part of your journey.
Back in the rocket, as the countdown begins, you can feel assured by the insights and roadmap that Alford Group provided your team to boldly face this new adventure for your organization.
Want to learn more about what it’s like to work with consultants to advance your organization’s mission? Check out this blog post Why Hire a Consultant?