A fundraising consultant can be an enormous asset to a nonprofit, but, like almost all good things, consultants come with a cost.
Don’t let costs deter you! A fundraising consultant who truly fits your nonprofit will be priceless. In fact, building a strong relationship with a fundraising consultant can set up your nonprofit for long-term success that goes beyond the scope of your contract.
That said, it’s also vital that your nonprofit is able to afford a consultant in the first place. With this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the costs of a fundraising consultant so that you can properly budget your expenses.
Specifically, we’ll answer these frequently asked questions:
- How much do fundraising consultants cost?
- How do fundraising consultants charge for services?
- Why shouldn’t we pay our consultant a percentage of the funds raised?
- What kind of additional costs can occur when using a consultant?
How much do fundraising consultants cost?
Fundraising consultant fees will vary depending on the scope and complexity of your nonprofit’s project. The more intensive your project is, the more expensive it will be.
For example, hiring a consultant for a one-day board retreat will cost much less than hiring one to plan and execute a capital campaign.
Even if you only anticipate needing a consultant for a single task (such as a feasibility study), it’s rare for nonprofits to purchase consulting services “a la carte.” As such, you can better anticipate your expenses by thinking realistically about all the areas of your nonprofit which may require support, as well as the benefits of keeping a consultant on board throughout the course of your project.
Other factors that may drive up cost include the consultant’s experience and specialty practices.
However, what’s most important is that you find a consultant who’s the right fit for your organization: someone who can work well with your team, understand your nonprofit’s unique needs and offer sustainable solutions to your problems.
When you’ve identified a consultant (or consultants!) who can serve your organization well, have a conversation with them and/or request a proposal to get an idea of their estimated costs. Afterwards, you can discuss their pricing until you’re satisfied enough to sign a contract.
To Sum Up: Consulting fees will vary depending on the scope of the project you’d like to pursue. The best way to anticipate costs is to think realistically about the support you need and to have a conversation with potential consultants.
How do fundraising consultants charge for services?
There are three general ways that a project will be billed to your nonprofit.
Let’s look at each in detail:
- Flat fee – A flat fee is a fixed payment for a project within a defined time period, with specific deliverables. For example, a nonprofit may pay a flat fee for a consultant to create a case for support or to execute a board retreat.
- Retainer – A retainer fee is an upfront, recurring charge for larger, long-term projects. A nonprofit may pay a monthly retainer fee for a consultant’s help over the course of a capital campaign, for example.
- Hourly – An hourly fee is usually paid to consultants for simple projects that don’t require a lot of time or involvement from the consultant. For example, a nonprofit may pay an hourly fee for weekly check-ins or meetings.
Any of theses models can work for your organization, depending on what you want to accomplish and the extent of the support your nonprofit needs.
No matter what, it’s important to understand how you’ll be billed before you hire a consultant and sign a contract. After all, the better your nonprofit can budget for your consulting fees, the better you’ll be able to justify the expense to the key figures who matter most (i.e., your board, your development committee and even your donors!).
To Sum Up: Fundraising consultants will usually charge either a flat, retainer or hourly fee, depending on the type of project. Understand the payment structure before you sign a contract.
Why shouldn’t we pay our consultant a percentage of the funds raised?
If you’re hiring a consultant for a long-term project, like a capital campaign, you may be inclined to offer an incentive-based payment system. For example, some nonprofits wonder if they should pay a consultant a percentage of the funds raised from a project.
Doing so can put your nonprofit in murky ethical waters. In fact, the AFP ethical guidelines advise against it.
One of the most compelling reasons that nonprofits shouldn’t pay a consultant a percentage of the funds raised is that doing so can mislead donors.
Donors want their contributions to go directly to your cause. Using a percentage of their donations to pay a consultant can discourage and alienate your donors, regardless of how much you raise overall.
Plus, your consultant should aim to build systems and process that will benefit your nonprofit in the long run. An incentive-based payment system could encourage practices directed toward short-term rewards at the expense of deeper relationship-building.
Focus on building sustainable fundraising throughout your organization and pay for a consultant through careful budgeting.
To Sum Up: Paying a consultant a percentage of the funds raised from a project can frustrate donors who want their donations to go directly to the cause. Use a traditional payment model instead of compromising your donors’ trust.
What kind of additional costs can occur when using a consultant?
When budgeting for your consultant, it’s important to take additional fees into consideration. These fees will fall on your nonprofit as they occur, so being prepared is the best way to anticipate these expenses.
Additional costs include:
- Consultant travel
- Design and printing
- Event or retreat fees
If all of these costs are making you sweat, don’t worry. A consultant is an investment in your organization, and there are several ways that you can stretch your budget to afford one.
If your organization needs the help of a consultant, find room in your budget by discussing funding priorities with your board. After all, a consultant can help your nonprofit run more efficiently and effectively so that every dollar you spend is furthering your cause as much as possible.
You may also want to consider whether you have key donors who would be interested in supporting the project in question. This strategy is especially applicable if you’re considering a new case for support, a strategic plan or board retreat, as these are aspects of your organization in which high profile donors have a vested interest.
The key is to prioritize, to plan ahead, to anticipate costs and to frame consultant fees such that your board and high level donors understand the importance of these expenses.
To Sum Up: Additional costs can occur throughout the project. Knowing what costs to expect can help you budget for them in advance so that your organization can seek out supplementary sources of funding if necessary.
Now that you understand everything there is to know about fundraising consultant fees, it’s time to apply that knowledge to find the consultant who’s right for you.
Looking for a fundraising consultant? Check out the consulting services in the following locations:
- Nonprofits looking for a consultant in Cleveland, Ohio can find more information about the services available here.
- If your nonprofit is located in Cincinnati, Ohio, check out this resource on nearby consulting services.
- Looking for a fundraising consultant firm in Columbus, Ohio? Check out this guide on Aly Sterling’s services.
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