advice2Go

   Home      Choosing a Consultant
CHOOSING A CONSULTANT
 
Thinking of hiring a consultant to help you with your fundraising? These notes may help you to make more informed choices and achieve better outcomes.
Here at advice2Go we offer two levels of support:
  • Consultancy services
  • Hands-On support
 
These are explained in more detail on the relevant pages of our website. However, the following notes are designed to help you with some of the basics of choosing and using a consultant, most important if you want the relationship to be successful and to achieve your objectives.
 
 
Finding good consultants
There are plenty of good consultants around. Those based in the North of England tend to charge less than those from the South. Daily rates average out at about £250 in the North and £350-£500 in the South. Paying more than that does not necessarily mean you will get more experience and certainly will not guarantee better results. Good consultants tend to belong to one of the main networks. If you know someone who has used a consultant and was pleased with the outcome you might like to ask them if they can recommend them.
 
Good consultants are usually (but not always) members of the Institute of Fundraising. The Institute keeps a register of consultant members on a searchable database. Failing that, you could contact the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, which also has a register of approved consultants. Some of the larger fundraising companies also belong to the Association of Fundraising Consultants. The Director of advice2Go is a member of the Institute of Fundraising and was a National Council for Voluntary Organisations Approved Consultant for over ten years. Most of our associates are also members of the Institute.

 
Planning your fundraising
If you want to avoid failure it pays to plan thoroughly in advance. So we recommend you approach the work in two stages:
 
 
Stage One – Planning
Before you can start fundraising, you need to know:
  • What you want the money for
  • How much you REALLY need
  • Where you will get the money
  • How long it will take to get it
  • Who is going to help you get it
  • How they are going to do that
  • How much it will cost to raise your target
Your consultant can help you plan your fundraising and put certainty around the answers to these basic questions. They will also help you to decide on the best option to proceed - using further professional help or recruiting your own salaried fundraiser. In the worst case, it is better to know that you won’t reach your target before you start, so you can avoid wasting your money. Your consultant should be able to advise you if they think your target is not achievable. They should also be able to recommend a range of alternative methods of raising funds from any of the key sources:
  • Individuals
  • Trusts and foundations
  • Companies
  • Statutory grants (local, regional or national)
  • The Lottery
  • Europe
Your consultant should be able to give you a fixed price for this planning work. You will then have an outline fundraising plan to help you decide your future options.
 
 
Stage Two - Implementation 
This is the implementation stage of your fundraising plan. Your fundraiser will know how many approaches they need to make and how complex these will be. Therefore they know how much work is involved and can quote a fixed price for it. Alternatively, they might have recommended that you recruit a salaried fundraiser to help you reach your target. Some consultants can help you with the recruitment process or advise you which recruitment specialists to contact. advice2Go can do this for you if that is your chosen option.
 
 
Relationships
Once you have decided to use a consultant, make sure that you have one point of contact within their organisation who takes full responsibility for your relationship and to deal with all aspects of the work. The consultant will also expect you to do the same.
 
 
The brief
Prepare a comprehensive brief for the work you need carried out. This can be a bit tricky, especially if this is an area of work you are unfamiliar with. How do you know what answers you want if you don’t know the right question to ask? If this is the case why not call your prospective consultant and discuss the issues with them? A good consultant will often give you a few minutes of free advice. Indeed some will give you longer (up to half a day in some circumstances). They obviously want your business and they want to do a good job, so it is important for them to have a solid brief to work to.Have some realistic goals in mind and set these down as part of the agreement with your consultant. What do you expect to achieve and by when?
 
 
The contract
There are standard models you can use. The Institute of Fundraising can provide an appropriate model to adapt for your own purposes. At the very least you should have a letter of agreement, signed by both parties and outlining the key tasks, deadlines, fees and expected outcomes.
 
 
Interviews and references
Make sure you can work with the people you select. It is important that you can get along and over time build mutual trust and confidence. Also, you should take up references for previous work – all consultants fail from time to time, usually because of poor communications or unrealistic expectations at the outset. Most of us however, have got it right often enough to be offered repeat work – so watch out for consultants who get plenty of repeat business when consultants are pitching for your contract.Once you have awarded the contract, keep on top of the programme – keep talking and make sure that the milestones you have set are achieved. Be open about delays and hindrances and expect your consultant to do the same. We work on the basis of mutual trust and a willingness to do a good job. That way, most problems can be easily overcome. Please note, we are happy to give referees if we are to be awarded a contract. However, we do not routinely give out referees' names, as we do not want them to be swamped with requests for references for work we end up not getting.
 
 
Fees
You should aim to get quotations from three individuals or organisations you have shortlisted. Getting more quotes will not mean you get a better consultant; it just delays the process and adds to everybody’s workload. Few reputable consultants work on commission, or a no-win-no-fee basis. This is frowned upon by the leading institutions in the sector. Open-ended daily rates are also becoming less and less common since both sides to an agreement want clarity before the programme of work commences. Try to get a fixed maximum price for your programme – that way there should be no surprises. We work on this basis, which means that we estimate how much work is required to do the tasks we have agreed with you. This forms the basis of our contract. If we complete the work substantially below our maximum price, we charge you less, reflected in the final invoice. If we find we run over, that is our problem and we still only charge the maximum fee we have quoted. Although someone working on commission or payment by results may sound an attractive proposition, there is no guarantee they will do a better job.
 
 
Timing
Always allow yourself a realistic amount of time for the work to be completed. It may be tempting for the consultant to claim that they can complete the work by a given deadline as part of the process of securing the contract. Even if you are working to a deadline, ask the consultant to indicate the time frame they believe is realistic for the project before you tell them when you need the work done by. You can then compare quotes to see if your expectations are realistic. In our experience, timescales ALWAYS slip.In general you will make very little impact on a large fundraising target in six months and it is likely that you will need at least 12 to 18 months to make a realistic return. New organisations with no track record tend to take longer to raise money. Most of our smaller clients are new to fundraising and the failure rate can be higher for them.One last and really important point, we at advice2Go believe that the one thing that makes a difference to our client relationships is the passion and commitment they show for their cause. Of course your ideas have to be realistic but passion and commitment can be more important than skills and experience, as it is something that all funders can relate to.  We also like to think that the only work we take on is work we are passionate about, so check us out at interview to test whether we really want to do the work too!
 
 
When do you need to recruit a salaried fundraiser?
Single issue or project based work rarely justifies the engagement of a salaried fundraiser, even on a part time basis. The peaks and troughs in the fundraiser’s workload usually mean that after the initial phase of work to embed the fundraising strategy and prepare initial submissions, there is an inevitable waiting time before activity resumes. You need to ask if you want to be paying someone (with all the oncosts that implies) to be idle, even if they are employed on a part time basis. Conversely, only ever using freelance staff means that your organisation and paid staff will find it much harder to own both the work and the outcomes of the programme. Building a robust fundraising resource for your organisation, with all that implies, will take much longer.  Again, your consultant should be able to better assess your options once they know the scope of work required.
 
 
Fundraiser or consultant? What the law says
There are distinct codes of behaviour that must be adhered to if one is acting as a professional fundraiser engaged by a Charity. The Charities Act 1993 and subsequent revisions makes a clear distinction in law between a fundraising consultant and a professional fundraiser. The Institute of Fundraising has recently further clarified these relationships in its series of good practice papers which are available to view on their website. If you are in any doubt about the legal definitions, please contact the Institute or the Charity Commission for clarification.
 
Unfortunately there are no guarantees of success in fundraising, but you can at least shorten the odds against failure if you follow our advice. Good luck with your fundraising!