At your nonprofit, you’re good at what you do, but talking about it is a different story. Writing, producing video, creating content for websites and blogs, building relationships on social media…this is a specific skill set. Not everyone has it. Not everyone has time to learn it.
You decide to hire a communications consultant. What should you be looking for?
- Be clear about why you are hiring a consultant. Are you looking for a strategist to guide your communications, a writer to spruce up your content, or a social media manager? Or all of the above?
- Hire a consultant who has worked in nonprofits. Your consultant need to understand the way that nonprofits work and the demands we face.
- Hire a consultant with practical communication experience.
Look not only at the resume and writing samples they give you but at the website and social media they use for their own business.
- Hire a consultant who asks a lot of questions. If the person comes to you with ready-made answers, they’re not going to be much help. Hire someone who asks more questions than you think are necessary.
- Hire a consultant with an affable personality and straightforward delivery. If people at your agency don’t like the consultant, they won’t listen to the advice. If they listen but don’t understand it, what good is it?
- Hire a consultant who will tell you when the emperor has no clothes. Something you’re doing isn’t working as well as it should, or you wouldn’t hire a consultant in the first place. You need a truth-teller: someone who will look you in the eye and tell you what needs to change.
- Hire a consultant who will work for a project fee rather than an hourly rate. As Robert Holland says, “If you hire a consultant by the hour, you are paying only for his time, which is a commodity. Instead, the focus should be on the value the consultant provides in terms of experience and knowledge. Settle on a project fee and then you won’t be watching the clock all the time. At the very least, arrange a fee for a limited but specific period of time and agree to revisit it at some point in time when you can assess how the project is going.”
From my point of view as a communications consultant, I love it when a nonprofit or small business approaches me with these seven points in mind. I know we’ll reach an agreement and work together well.
What else would you look for when hiring a communications consultant?
If you’re a fundraiser for a nonprofit organization, you have to read Fundraising the Dead, by Sheila Connolly. How many other chances will you have to see someone in your profession solve a murder mystery?
Nell Pratt is the Director of Development at the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society. Hours before her big fundraising event, a blueblood Board member informs her that priceless documents from the Board member’s family collection have disappeared from the building. Then, after the gala, Nell discovers the body of the man who worked most on those documents, dead in an upstairs room.
Is it murder? How will Nell get the documents back, and save her job? And is her relationship with her boss, the elegant Charles Elliot Worthington, going to survive the crisis?
The book gives a good idea of how fundraisers spend their work days, and the relationship between staff and major donors. The author has done the work herself. Like me, she speaks nonprofit.
As a mystery, this is a fun read. If you are looking for a puzzle that will tax your brain, this isn’t it. I figured out who stole the documents halfway through the book, and who committed the murder almost immediately thereafter. But it was a pleasure to follow the relationships between Nell, Board member Marty Terwilliger, and her nephew Special Agent James Morrison (yes, he went down to the wrong side of town). Even your non-fundraising friends will enjoy it.
Have you read any other fiction about nonprofit fundraisers or communicators? Would you please recommend it in the comments section below?