Get our capital campaign planning checklist to help you prepare.

Your organization has determined that a capital campaign is in its future. And you know you can’t do it alone.

A capital campaign consultant can help your nonprofit plan and execute a capital campaign. With their expertise and insight, a consultant can be an incredible asset to your team. With this article, we’ll help you hire the right partner to assist with your campaign from start to finish!

We’ve broken out the hiring process into 7 simple steps:

  1. Discuss the option of hiring a consultant with your board and development committee
  2. Understand a capital campaign consultant’s role
  3. Do your homework
  4. Start a conversation with your top choices
  5. Submit a request for proposal
  6. Check your consultant’s references
  7. Finalize the details

 Let’s get started!

Discuss the option of hiring a capital campaign consultant with your board and development committee.

1. Discuss the option of hiring a capital campaign consultant with your board and development committee

After you’ve determined a capital campaign is in your future, discuss the option of hiring outside assistance with key organizational leaders.

First and foremost, your board and development committee must be involved in the conversation. These individuals will help lead and fund your campaign, so their input and buy-in are critical to your success.

You’ll also want to ensure that they can work effectively with a consultant throughout the campaign. Listen to what they have to say. Now is the time to address any questions and concerns board members may have.

Emphasize that capital campaigns are large endeavors with a lot of money at stake; a consultant can bring valuable expertise to the table that can help ensure the success of a campaign. From these conversations, you should also determine the extent of the support that your nonprofit will need.

For example, these questions can help you understand your campaign readiness and where a consultant can fill in the gaps:

  • Do you have a fundraising strategic plan?
  • Do you have strong leadership from your administration and board?
  • Do you hold your paid fundraising staff accountable to financial goals?
  • Do you understand your nonprofit’s past ROI on campaigns and events?
  • Do you have a solid understanding of your target demographics?

If you’re struggling to answer these questions with an affirmative “yes,” then you may need to hire a consultant who’s comfortable with building your nonprofit’s internal operations while managing a capital campaign.

Step 1 Summary:  Your board and development committee are essential to hiring a capital campaign consultant. Discuss the option of hiring a consultant as well as the extent of the services your nonprofit will need.

Get familiar with a capital campaign consultant's services.

2. Understand a capital campaign consultant’s role

While most consultants offer a variety of campaign-related services, few nonprofits purchase these services “a la carte.”

It’s most common and beneficial to choose a long-term partner who can assist your fundraising and awareness-generating efforts from start to finish — to provide accountability, expertise and extra hands as your needs change throughout the campaign.

Specifically, your consultant should demonstrate their experience and success with the following key capital campaign activities:

  • Feasibility studies
  • Cases for support
  • Ongoing campaign management
  • Major gifts cultivation
  • Donor recognition

When searching for a consultant for your organization, it’s important that you find someone who can help you with these important aspects of your campaign.

Even if you’re only anticipating that you’ll need one specific service, your consultant’s skill set should be comprehensive.

Step 2 Summary: A capital campaign consultant should offer several key services, such as campaign management and feasibility studies. However, nonprofits should think about hiring a partner who can assist with the entirety of the campaign, rather than purchasing specific services “a la carte.”

 

Do your homework on capital campaign consultants.

3. Do your homework

The good news is there are many qualified capital campaign consultants to choose from. The bad news? You guessed it. There are many qualified consultants to choose from. Your goal should be to find a consultant who is competent and personable, someone you have great confidence in and enjoy working with. To start your search, you can:

  • Seek the recommendations of colleagues you respect.
  • Use the internet to your advantage by looking for resource directories offered by professional and community organizations.

From these sources, generate a list of consultants who could be a good fit for your organization.  Then, when reviewing each consultant, consider the following questions:

  • What is the consultant’s specialty practice? Your consultant should have experience with capital campaigns and the specific areas where you need assistance, as many consultants specialize in a particular area of fundraising.
  • Where are they located? Both local and remote consultants have their advantages. Local consultants can provide in-person assistance more regularly, while remote consultants can offer a fresh, outside perspective to your capital campaign.
  • What kind of clients have they historically serviced? Consultants may service nonprofits of a particular type or size, so it’s important to find one who can assist your organization.
  • What are their founding philosophies or core beliefs? Your consultant’s founding philosophies should complement your nonprofit’s mission and your organization’s culture.

These questions should guide your research and help you narrow down your list of potential consultants.

Step 3 Summary: Use your nonprofit’s network of respected peers as well as professional and community organizations to start your search for a consultant. Guide your research with specific, targeted questions.

Start a conversation with your top capital campaign consultant choices.

4. Start a conversation with your top choices

Once you’ve identified potential consultants, it’s important to have conversations with them to determine how their services and approach fit your organizational goals. After all, a capital campaign consultant will likely be in it for the long haul, so you want to choose the right person.

Your consultant should be someone you can work well with, who builds confidence in your campaign.

During your conversations, look for a consultant who can form a strong working relationship.

Some key traits that can help you identify the right match for your organization are as follows:

  • The consultant expresses interest in your organization and campaign.
  • The consultant answers any questions you have directly and respectfully.
  • The consultant is experienced in the areas that can address your need.
  • The consultant is a good listener and collaborator.

Whether you have an in-person conversation or speak over the phone, the goal is to communicate with the consultant and determine whether they’d fit into your organization.

As such, it’s important that you don’t just ask questions. You should explain your nonprofit’s vision and where you need support — show the consultant that your nonprofit is prepared to embark on a capital campaign in the first place!

Don’t overlook the importance of this step! Your consultant is someone who will be entering your space and working with your nonprofit throughout the course of your campaign.

A good working relationship is key to the success of your campaign.

Step 4 Summary: Finding a consultant who can work well with your organization is key to building an effective, lasting relationship. Start a conversation with your top choices to find the right fit.

Submit a request for proposal to your top capital campaign choices.

5. Submit a request for proposal

To help finalize your decision, you should request a proposal from your top choices. When requesting a proposal, you’ll need to provide a clear deadline to your top picks, as well as any specific information you want them to include.

A good proposal will contain the following information:

  • A short description of your organization
  • The capital campaign’s purpose
  • The capital campaign timeline
  • Expected outcomes
  • List of deliverables
  • Estimated cost

A proposal should also explain a consultant’s process and approach to managing your capital campaign and any problems you’ve addressed. The best proposals will not only provide logistical details, but will show a deeper understanding of your nonprofit’s needs.

These proposals aren’t set in stone; in fact, you may negotiate the details of the proposal at a later stage in the hiring process.

However, these proposals should give insight into which consultants can best serve your organization and how their unique skill sets would support your campaign.

Step 5 Summary: Request proposals from your top candidates to see how each consultant would approach your capital campaign.

Check your capital campaign consultant's references.

6. Check your consultant’s references

After you’ve reviewed proposals, you can further narrow down or solidify your top choice(s) by checking references.

Any consultant worth considering should provide references that your nonprofit can use to contact former clients. References provide insight into the consultant’s past work (and success!).

Specifically, you should call two or three of the consultant’s former clients and ask questions such as:

  • How did the consultant manage the projects in your capital campaign?
  • Did they stay within the campaign’s budget?
  • How did they communicate with members of your team?
  • Did the consultant meet the campaign’s deadlines?
  • What was the overall quality of their work?
  • Would you recommend this consultant?

If you have any other questions or concerns, now is the time to bring them up.

After all, these references are third parties who can provide honest insight into the consultant’s past work.

Step 6 Summary: Speak to your consultant’s references to better understand how the consultant works in practice. Use the information you gather to further narrow down your search.

Finalize the details for your capital campaign consultant's contract.

7. Finalize the details

Once you’ve determined which consultant you’d like to work with, it’s important to take all the necessary steps to finalize the arrangement.

These steps include:

  • Reviewing proposals and determining if there are any changes that need to be made. You can even hold these conversations before selecting a final consultant. The point is to discuss a consultant’s proposal so that you’re both satisfied and on the same page before a contract is signed.
  • Signing the contract, which should outline the details of your agreement. These details include the timeline, cost and deliverables, among other things.

A capital campaign consultant will most likely be paid through a retainer fee (an upfront cost to cover a large or long-term project), so be sure to have room in your budget for this initial expense.

Once all the details are finalized, get ready! It’s time to get started with an amazing partnership that will enable the success of your capital campaign!

Step 7 Summary: Review proposals and sign a contract that outlines the details of your agreement. Prepare your budget for a retainer fee, and get excited about starting your capital campaign!


Now that you know the essential steps to hiring a capital campaign consultant, you can start the process yourself! By following our guide, you can build a lasting partnership with a consultant that will lead your nonprofit to future success, beyond the scope of your capital campaign.

Learn more about hiring a capital campaign consultant.

Aly Sterling Philanthropy

Aly Sterling Philanthropy

Over the years we’ve helped nonprofits raise millions of dollars, engage their leaders, hire top-notch talent and grow their missions. Are you ready to move your mission forward? Contact us to get started.
Aly Sterling Philanthropy
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