Take a look at the Association for Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP’s) recent poll, which asked charities “which internal factors/challenges are preventing your organization from having the greatest impact on its cause and philanthropy?” The number one response was lack of development staff – in other words, a lack of individuals committed to building and maintaining a steady base of donations and support through various fundraising approaches.
The poll’s results didn’t entirely surprise us. In fact, lack of development staff is one of the main reasons why nonprofits reach out to ConceptLink. But what’s the solution to the problem? The idea of bringing in outside support to fulfill what are normally perceived as internal functions makes some nonprofit Boards and Executives a little squeamish (they usually cite cost, lack of trust, and loss of project control as the main reasons). But, there are some significant benefits to hiring outside consultants for your nonprofit’s development needs. Here are just a few of the benefits that consultants can bring:
1. Serving as interim staffing: Your organization may be planning to hire full-time development staff in the future, but what’s happening in the meantime? Don’t let a sense of urgency pressure you into settling for the first candidate who comes knocking. Outsourcing development activities allows you to do due diligence in your search for full-time staff, without needing to put necessary fundraising on hold.
2. Providing access to professional skills and talent: As the nonprofit sector becomes increasingly competitive, nonprofits must proactively recruit talent to fill their internal skill gaps. If hiring an employee with the necessary development background and skills is cost-prohibitive for your organization, outsourcing will give you access to this expertise.
Additionally, many of our clients appreciate having access to an entire firm of professionals, rather than just one individual. If you choose a consultancy over an individual consultant, you benefit from a team with diverse skill sets, meaning your consulting partnership may well achieve more than any one full-time staff person could reasonably accomplish.
3. Saving you money: As any Executive or HR Manager will tell you, an employee’s costs to the nonprofit are more than just her salary. There are other expenses – payroll taxes, benefits, additional office space, training and professional development – that add up quickly. In fact, once these additional costs are factored in, many organizations find it’s actually cheaper for them to hire consultants. Take advantage of the fact that most consultants offer both hourly, project, flat fee, and retainer payment structures, allowing you to tailor their fee precisely to your organization’s needs.
4. Conducting feasibility studies, SWOTs, and other assessments: As this article from Capability Company describes, “Strategic Planning… is often needed to better prepare for the fundraising future. Such planning may require intensive research from a fundraising specialist whose area of expertise aligns with your mission. An advanced level of planning would not only look at your agency but also analyze your competitors and document various best practices. Such planning almost always makes nonprofits more fundable.” Assessments like SWOTs (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) and primary research (such as interviews with stakeholders, beneficiaries, or Board members) will uncover information and enlighten you to your organization’s position in the competitive market and necessary areas of development on which your internal team can focus.
5. Giving you a fresh perspective: In Fundraising Basics: A Complete Guide, Barbara Ciconte and Jeanne Jacob explain how “consultants can provide a fresh perspective to a department mired in its day-to-day operations. The familiar phrase ‘not being able to see the forest for the trees’ often applies… A consultant needs to be free to tell you what you need to know, not what you would like to hear!” If your nonprofit is stuck in a rut, about to embark on a new project, or ready to take a different approach to development, a consultant can give unique ideas, innovative approaches, and a level of candor that someone who receives their livelihood from you can’t (or won’t) necessarily provide.
Incidentally, upon further review of the results of the AFP survey we noticed that outsourcing development services can also address most of the other major issues mentioned in the survey – yet another reason why taking a harder look at outsourcing is a smart idea!
There are certain distinguishing factors that help predict an organization’s likelihood of a successful outsourcing experience. Curious to know if your nonprofit is ready to work with consultants on its fundraising, event planning, or branding and communications? Download ConceptLink’s Readiness Assessment for a quick and easy checklist!
If your nonprofit has outsourced development activities in the past, what were the factors that influenced your decision to do so? Share your thoughts with us!