15 thoughts on “Why We Need Consultants To Work, Not Be Rock Stars

  1. The relationship should always be with the organization. You’re right to insure that, Marcy.

    Within orgs there’s the problem of development officer turnover due to low job satisfaction, which hurts relationships. I covered that in a Fundraising Fundamentals show for The Chronicle of Philanthropy (http://tony.ma/YIklFO).

  2. Tony…
    Just learned about you and this great resource in the non-profit world. THANK YOU for what you are doing!

    After 25 successful years of raising significant dollars at the University of Wisconsin Foundation, I launched my own business called The Artful Asker. Why? Because it hurt my heart to see how major donors were being treated. How do we psych them, arm-twist them, ‘Move’ then, get our board/friends to ask them, etc. The givers I had the privilege to work with are still my friends and active and joyful givers because we built genuine, ethical relationships with them. What your clip misses is how the “Hired Gun Consultant” swooping in and conducting a campaign or effort makes the donors feel about the organization and giving in general. It’s not pretty. How does the organization treat them, steward them, care for them after the hired gun packs up his bags and heads to the next town? I want to empower each non-profit to establish their OWN relationships. I don’t need a relationship with their donors – THEY DO! I wish you could interview donors who have been on the other end of these consultant’s conversations. My magic is to look at both our mindset as well as our methods and make the process understandable and realistic. What can an organization do, given it’s resources etc, to more effectively partner with their prospective givers? If Judy Levine is where you are sending them – spot on. I can tell from her post that she gets it. More than anything else, we have a responsibility to do our work in a way that honors the power and joy of philanthropy. Thanks for starting this conversation!

  3. Thanks for the shout-out, Tony! We take a two-faceted approach. On the one hand, more information overload and how-twos aren’t going to get our clients anywhere. “So now I know how, but how the heck am I going to integrate this into our already 150% workload? ” And, even more importantly for our clients, “How do I move the players, assets and challenges I uniquely have at my table around to apply some of these principals?”

    But on the other hand, swooping in and taking on their development function, from the outside, doesn’t enable them to develop the loyalties – and, yes, chops – to become their own version of a fundraising powerhouse within this universe.

    So we walk a fine line of coaching, modeling, supporting – and doing when we have to to get something started – knowing that the goal for every organization we work with is to have a strong, flourishing development function on their own terms when we’re gone.

    Looking forward to meeting you in person in January, Tony, and thanks for sparking this dialogue!

  4. Interesting. What is a ‘rock star?’ Someone with a large internet following? Someone with a large newsletter subscriber base?

    My own practice evolved from my experiences during the 10+ years I spent in development. I often paid for training out of pocket because…well because that’s how a lot of nonprofits operate. I also encountered a great deal of solidly mediocre training during that time…the kind of training that makes you wish you were back in the office doing something worthwhile, like writing thank you notes.

    The overriding mission of my business is to provide easily implemented DONOR-focused training for small to mid-sized nonprofit organizations – at prices they can afford. Too many of the tiny organizations that cross my radar are focused on ‘nickel and dime’ busy-making fundraising like events, amazon smile, or a good search toolbar. I teach the systems these organizations need to put into place to build sustainable long-term funding.

    We cover topics such as nonprofit storytelling, retention fundraising, planned giving, nonprofit direct mail, starting your monthly giving program, and more. My Basics and More fundraising fundamentals courses provide training, as Mary Cahalane noted “for every schedule” http://www.pamelagrow.com/4186/success-with-sds-your-fundraising-plan-case-support/ Readers and members who actually implement (there’s that key word) the teachings are experiencing great success. Several have been able to hire their first development staffer. Many consultants take my courses over and over again.

    I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have found this work.

    I’m also a hands-on fundraiser, having recently completed three year-end direct mail appeals, and several online campaigns.

  5. Hey Tony,
    This is what we DO at Mark & Phil! Would love to talk about it some time. Happy to share some of the work we’ve done and are doing.

    In general, we come up with the strategy, then we execute it, and then we evaluate what worked/what didn’t. And the circle keeps going.


  6. Marc, the genesis is my having difficulty finding consultants who will talk to small orgs that need help. I get a fair number of inquiries for work I don’t do. Thankfully I found CauseEffective.org where I can make those referrals.

  7. Charlotte, That client story sounds like an ideal for nonprofits that can afford it. You did the work, then the org hired someone to do it.

    Mary, Happy to have you continue the convo!

    Amanda, I’ll be interested in your conclusions for program evaluation. Might be valuable info for Nonprofit Radio listeners.

  8. Glad the work is getting done, Francisco.

    Thank you for checking in from Argentina! I remember shouting you out on Nonprofit Radio.

  9. Dear Tony, I appreciate your video about consulting and “work” in NPO. I found it very clear, specially for your way of speaking slowly, great for a foregner who speaks in spanish as I am. I agree with you. Fortunatelly in Buenos Aires and in Argentina, in general, our culture send consultants to “work” into the NPO. Most of us are volunteers. But we have professionals too.
    Francisco Lynch
    Buenos Aires
    Facebook: Mundo el hornero

  10. Part of the problem may lie with the NYS Charities Bureau language defining fundraising counsel as non-soliciting. The definition of soliciting as “to directly or indirectly make a request for a contribution, whether express or implied through any medium” with an exception for those who print or mail a solicitation, has made me, as someone without a legal background, cautious about meetings with donors or proposal writing. I believe that with adoption of the Nonprofit Revitalization Act, there is now an exception for those who are strictly grantwriters. I’d like to see more programs on the laws regulating fundraisers, similar to those you do on state charitable solicitation. I do agree that small npos lack staff, but whether that’s a role for a consultant is a question that should provoke some interesting discussion. With one client, I replaced myself by helping the group hire two development staff, and it worked wonderfully.

  11. Interesting, Tony. I’d love the backstory on what triggered this! Was it similar to what caused me to create: http://guiltfreefundraising.com/? (I was an employee and didn’t have great experience with consultants…)

    Interestingly, while I love to do the work, I chose to be a coach over a consultant because I was finding too many nonprofits that didn’t want to learn how to NOT need my services. I never wanted to be a consultant that bred dependency because I didn’t show clients how to do it for themselves…

  12. I want to thank you for posting this. I think this is a topic that has not been discussed enough among both communities: consultants and nonprofits. We have seen an influx of webinars and other short-term teaching type ventures in the program evaluation world also. I think there has to be balance. How can non-profits become self-sufficent if they are too heavily reliant on consultants? How can they gain the skills they need from lectures or 1-hour webinars? Our hope at Evaluate for Change is the mix of hands-on trainings and on-going mentorship will make a difference. However, only time (and of course data) will tell what makes the greatest impact. And we look forward to the challenge.

    Amanda Babine
    Evaluate for Change

  13. I think this needs more conversation, Tony. So I hope you don’t mind if I continue on the topic with my post today. It’s one of those things where the conversation itself will be useful. So thanks for starting it!

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