Featured Expert   
Susan Love
August 2000

How do you justify the costs of hiring an outside consultant?

"There are two things about [hiring] a consultant. First you should decide what you want the consultant to do for you. Make sure that you set down what you want the consultant to do in a written contract. If you are hiring a small firm, it may only be three or four people. If you're dealing with a large firm, you'll want to know how much time is going to be devoted to your institution by one of the senior members, or if the campaign will be handed over to a junior member.

It's similar to hiring an architectural firm. In a larger firm the senior architect will work with you at the very beginning of the project, and then afterward you may have a junior associate, under the guidance of the senior associate, taking care of you. Set those things out, have some good discussions with the consultant before you sign [a contract].

The consultant will probably give you a plan of the campaign and their involvement. Take a look at the contract carefully, and see if it complies with what you need. If it doesn't, if the time frame doesn't work, or the cost is too great, you want to sit down and say, right away, 'This is not going to work for us'. You don't want to be talked into anything you don't want.

A good point to emphasize to your community when justifying the cost of a consultant is time. If the consultant is a good professional, they will raise the money a lot faster than you or a volunteer could. If you want to construct a building, instead of taking years to raise the money by yourself, a professional consultant can do it in months. Also, once you convey the costs involved with raising money, the concept of speeding up the process and having it conducted professionally by a consultant becomes very attractive.

Foundations and even some of your donors are going to look favorably upon a campaign that is run in a professional businesslike manner. They know you're serious and not wasting their time. Everything is happening in a timely manner (the thank you notes are actually getting out in 24 hours)."


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