What You Should Know About Working With a Consultant

working with a nonprofit consultant

Working with a consultant can be a dream! It can also be very disappointing if you have unrealistic expectations. The role of a consultant can take many forms including:

  • Provide you with a process for a special project

  • Guide and coach you regarding a particular set of issues or challenges

  • Serve as a ‘professional therapist’ (sometimes this is just part of the process!)

What makes working with a consultant a great experience? Setting clear expectations of your desired outcomes and understanding fully what the consultant can and will do to help you achieve those outcomes. Also, making sure that you take the time to vet the experience this consultant has had with other organizations similar to you or with other initiatives and checking references is of the utmost importance. And lastly, do you have a good chemistry when you have met with the consultant? As you will be spending a lot of time with him or her, you want to make sure that this is someone you feel good about working with and having as a partner with you.

On the flip side, working with a consultant can go very wrong if the expectations include:

  • He or she will bring donors and a network of movers and shakers to us

  • Now that we have hired the consultant, we can sit back and let her do the work for us

  • All of our issues will be resolved now that we have a consultant because they are the expert

The bottom line here is that a consultant engagement is a partnership. Just like working with a personal trainer, you cannot stay home, eat unhealthy foods and be inactive to see results. You have to partner with your trainer who will guide you, provide a process for your goals, and keep you motivated. The same is true when you hire a consultant for your organization. It’s a team effort and if you do your homework to hire the best person for your needs, have a good rapport with them, set clear expectations, and follow through with their guidance, you will undoubtedly have a very productive and successful experience.