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How to find and hire a charity consultant: an insider’s guide
It isn’t always easy to find and commission a consultant, someone who’s the right fit for your organisation, so here’s an insider’s guide.
An insider’s guide to hiring a skilled consultant
Most third sector organisations need the support of a skilled consultant at some point or other. Hiring a skilled consultant, facilitator or trainer is an effective and efficient way to overcome a difficult or persistent organisational problem, build capacity, or capitalise on an opportunity that your organisation may be facing.
It isn’t always easy to find and commission a consultant, someone who’s the right fit for your organisation, so here’s our insider’s guide.
Step 1: Write a brief
Your brief should include:
- Background and context: Be clear about why you need a consultant. Give some context about your organisation, and the challenges/opportunities you’re facing.
- Budget: Consultants have no idea if you are looking for a few workshops or a deep-dive analysis without knowing how much you’ve got to spend. Outlining your budget also allows you to compare and contrast proposals.
- Deliverables: Be reasonable in your expectations – don’t expect miracles for small budgets, but don’t be too prescriptive either. Good quality consultants bring skills, expertise, and innovative methods that we have honed over many years but we can’t tailor those unless we understand your expectations.
- Skills and qualities: Fresh perspectives usually come from people outside of your team. Work out what values, skills, knowledge and qualities you are looking for to fill gaps in your organisation.
- The application process: Keep it proportionate. Have an informal chat with us ahead of the process. Don’t place unreasonable limits for complex project submissions, but also don’t undertake lengthy procurement processes for away day facilitation or training workshops.
- Timescales: Good consultants are usually in high demand. Be flexible and build in time for consultants to develop a proposal (at least 3 weeks), and for the project to start (could be a 6–12-week lead-in time).
Step 2: Invite proposals
Develop a list of experienced consultants, facilitators and/or trainers who offer specialist services for the charity and voluntary sector. Review the profiles of consultants who fit your criteria and send them the brief.
We’re happy to receive requests for proposals for impact, evaluation and strategy projects, and invite you to Book a Call to discuss your project.
If you’d like to speak to other consultants, there is a wide range on the Consultants for Good website.
Step 3: Review and select
It is a good idea to invite shortlisted consultants to an interview or informal chat, to ask questions and explore their approach in further detail. Ask for case studies or references so you can assess the quality of their previous work.
Step 4: Set up for success
Once you have identified the consultant who is best for your job, set up a system which ensures success and value for money:
- Prepare an agreement that outlines the scope, expectations of both parties, criteria for success, confidentiality, employment status and fee. This can be drawn up by you, the consultant or jointly.
- Be available throughout the project. Consultants cannot work effectively in isolation. Collate reading materials, support the delivery of the project and schedule in regular updates.
- Review and implement the consultant’s recommendations – nothing will change unless you make sure it changes.
- Evaluate the success of the project against agreed deliverables and outcomes.
Hiring a consultant can be an extremely effective way to bring in expertise, resolve a crisis and get the job done. If you take the time to follow these steps, you’re much more likely to ensure that your organisation benefits from a truly transformational process.
Edited from the version originally published for Consultants For Good website on 20 July 2021
FOUNDER & LEAD CONSULTANT
Emma has first-hand experience of the thrills and terrors of charity leadership. Dedicated to the non-profit sector for 21 years, Emma has both depth and breadth of experience as a CEO, Consultant, Trustee and Chair, Fundraiser and Grants Assessor.
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