Capital campaigns are massive endeavors. They require quite a bit of planning to ensure the campaign process runs smoothly.
These intense fundraising campaigns require organizations to raise a great bulk of money in order to fund a large project. Whether the campaign funds a building renovation, office renovations or damage repair, the capital campaign is a fundamental part of your fundraising strategy to afford these colossal efforts.
Because capital campaigns are such enormous endeavors, you won’t want to tackle it alone. Capital campaign consultants are a valuable asset to help your nonprofit plan and execute the capital campaign.
With their expertise and insight, a capital campaign consultant can help lead you through the campaign from your feasibility study until the end of the campaign.
However, every capital campaign consultant has different specialties and focuses, so it’s important to make sure you choose the one that will work best with your organization. These 5 simple steps will help you hire the best consultant for your campaign:
- Make sure everyone is on board.
- Understand the consultant’s role.
- Start a conversation with your top picks.
- Submit a request for proposal.
- Finalize your choice.
With a capital campaign consultant by your side, you’ll have access to expert opinions during each and every step in the capital campaign process. Let’s jump in to learn more about the hiring process!
1. Make sure your organization is on board with hiring a capital campaign consultant.
After you’ve determined a capital campaign is in your future, discuss the option of hiring a nonprofit consulting firm 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 capital campaign consultant throughout the campaign. Listen to what they have to say. Now is the time to address general questions and concerns board members may have about launching a capital campaign with a consultant by your side.
Emphasize that capital campaigns are large endeavors with a lot of money at stake; a nonprofit 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 nonprofit consulting firm can fill in the gaps:
- Do you have a solid 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.
In a nutshell: Capital campaign consultants are a resource that your organization can use to get an expert unbiased advice for your campaign. Check out our guide for planning a capital campaign to see all of the steps your capital campaign consultant can help you with.
2. Understand a capital campaign consultant’s role in your organization.
The first step to understanding what the role of a capital campaign consultant is with your organization is to gather as much information as you can about the consultants themselves beforehand. This will show how they will fit in with your team.
There are so many qualified capital campaign consultants available, which leaves you with many options of consultants to choose from, each with their own specialty. To know how they will work with your organization, you first need to learn details such as:
- The consultant’s specialty practice. Check to see if the consulting firms you’re considering have experience filling in fundraising gaps for capital campaigns in the specific areas in which you need assistance.
- The location of the consultant. 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.
- Historic clients of the consultant. Consultants may service nonprofits of a particular type or size. Look to see if their past clients have similarities to your own nonprofit organization. This will indicate they may be more apt to fit in with you.
- What are their founding philosophies or core beliefs? Your consultant’s founding philosophies should complement your nonprofit’s mission and your organization’s culture.
Once you know this information, you’re one step closer to finding a capital campaign consultant who will serve your organization exceedingly well. Plus, you’ll know what’s valuable to them and how that will play a role in their work with your organization. For example, with consultants who specialize in organizing first-time capital campaigns, you know you’ll be getting advise perfect for beginners.
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 nonprofit 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
Even if you’re only anticipating that you’ll need one specific service, your consultant’s skill set should be comprehensive. It can be difficult for us to see our own flaws in campaign planning, but a capital campaign consultant with a well-rounded understanding will be able to find areas of improvement you may not have seen before.
In a nutshell: While most consultants offer a variety of campaign-related services, few nonprofits purchase these services “a la carte.” A capital campaign consultant should offer several key services, such as campaign management and feasibility studies, to help organizations from the launch of their campaign until it ends instead of these “a la carte” options.
3. Start a conversation with your capital campaign consultant top picks.
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 capital campaign consultant should be someone who is competent, personable and trustworthy. You should enjoy working with your consultant! Therefore, during your conversations, remember to look for a consultant with qualities indicating that they 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 mission and campaign.
- The consultant answers any questions you have directly and respectfully.
- The consultant is experienced in the areas that will address your need.
- The consultant is a good listener and collaborator.
Whether you are having an in-person discussion or talking over the phone, 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 nonprofit consultant is someone who will be entering your space and working with your nonprofit throughout the course of your campaign.
In a nutshell: Be sure to take notes during each of your conversations with potential capital campaign consultants. Make a list of questions to ask each one about your mission, the services you require and their past experience to make sure you don’t get distracted from your purpose.
4. Submit a request for proposal to your favorite capital campaign consulting firms.
To help finalize your decision, you should write a request for proposal (or an RFP) for your top nonprofit campaign consulting firms. In your request for 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 request for 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 good proposal in response to your RFP should explain the consultant’s process and how they will approach your capital campaign. It will address the problems or concerns you have discussed and answer any questions you present.
However, the best proposals will do more than that! The best nonprofit capital campaign consulting proposals will not only provide logistical details, but display 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 nonprofit consultants can best serve your organization and how their unique skill sets would support your campaign.
In a nutshell: Be sure you’re ready to answer more questions that the capital campaign consultants might come across while they are writing their proposal. A good RFP may spark some additional questions or concerns that you had not previously considered.
5. Choose a capital campaign consultant and finalize the details.
Now that you’ve had conversations and have a stack of proposals, you have all of the materials you need to make a final decision for your capital campaign consultant!
The first step to making this final decision is calling the references provided by your top capital campaign consultant picks. Make sure you ask the references:
- How did the consultant manage the capital campaign?
- Did they stay within the campaign’s budget?
- How did they communicate with your team?
- Did they meet your deadlines?
- How was their quality of work?
These references are third parties who can provide honest insight about the work your capital campaign consultant has done in the past.
Once you’ve reached out to their references, you can determine which nonprofit consultant you’d like to work with. Then, you’ll need to finalize the agreement with them. The next steps to finalize this agreement 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 nonprofit 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 nonprofit consulting partnership that will enable the success of your capital campaign.
In a nutshell: Be sure to read through the contract details thoroughly. Discuss any concerns you may have about particular parts of the contract and don’t be afraid to ask more questions. Even with all of the research, questions still arise. This isn’t the time to be shy!
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 nonprofit consultant that will lead your organization to future success, beyond the scope of your capital campaign.
For more information on nonprofit consultants and capital campaigns, check out the following additional resources:
- Corporate Fundraising Strategy. Perfect your corporate fundraising strategy by knowing what to look for (and what to avoid) in this guide by White Fuse.
- Top 21 Fundraising Consultants for Nonprofit Success. Start your research for a capital campaign consultant with referral guides from trusted sources like DonorSearch.
- Capital Campaign Best Practices to Help You Succeed. Check out our 9 tips to make your upcoming capital campaign the best it can be.
- Fundraising consultants are all over the place! Look for your next capital campaign consultant locally with these guides for Detroit, Dayton and Indianapolis.