Nonprofit Consulting Goes Global

As more governments move toward democracy and greater privatization, nongovernmental organizations are popping up in new places—and the worldwide marketplace for consultants to nonprofits is heating up. For instance, some consulting companies now define themselves through a global mission, with international markets and services. And large consulting firms like Accenture have extended their global reach to encompass nonprofits as well as businesses and government.

In addition, existing nonprofit…


To Keep Nonprofit Audiences Engaged, Get Them Moving

I was in India this past summer to facilitate an intensive four-day training for Packard Foundation grantees working on family-planning issues. The curriculum covered a lot of territory on social media and online collaborations, but every day after we came back from a delicious Indian meal, the after-lunch slump would set in.

I planned for this by incorporating an after-lunch energizer that used movement to get people’s brains going. Energizers are activities designed to awaken a sleeping audien…


Where to Find a Consultant: In Your Community or Elsewhere?

Among the decisions charities must make when it comes time to hire a fundraising consultant is whether to use someone local or someone outside the community. There are advantages to both.

Locals already know about donors in the community and will not need to be brought up to speed. Board members and staff who have already worked with them may trust and be comfortable with them.

Consultants who have been around a long time, however, even if they’re very good, may have detractors in the communit…


The Value of Conveying Complex Ideas in Simple Terms

Complex problems may require complex solutions. But no matter how complicated the issue, nonprofit consultants need to find a way to discuss both the problems and the solutions in simple, concise language. Good communication means making sure your message is accurately received, not just that you sent it.

It’s far too easy to hide behind jargon or consultant-speak or to expound on management theories that clients aren’t familiar with. We use jargon because it’s easy. It’s a shortcut. It…


Better Ways to Survive Hard Times

Nonprofits expect their consultants to work miracles by helping them do more with less. However, with the most recent “Giving USA” report that fundraising grew just 1.1 percent last year after inflation—and predictions of very little growth in 2012—it could be a long time before charities are raising funds at the rate they did prior to the recession. What’s a consultant to do?

Logic and experience lead us to traditional responses in hard times: Grow revenue or cut expenses. But restricting our …


Play Nicely With Other Consultants

A nonprofit consultant is rarely a charity’s only source of advice. Usually other consultants—lawyers, accountants, vendors, etc.—are working for the same client. Occasionally, one of those advisers will say something unprofessional about another or withhold information that would be helpful to that person’s work. This is both a practical and an ethical problem.

Let me share something a nonprofit executive told me about just such a situation. The client said that in her experience, consultants o…

10 Traits of a Great Consultant

“You need chutzpah, audacity.” That’s how Tom Wilson, a vice president at the consulting firm Campbell & Company, answered the question of what it takes to be a great consultant. Tom was one of a number of consultants we interviewed at the recent conference of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Here’s how others answered that question. Consultants must:

  1. Have self-confidence and be as adept at delivering bad news as goodThere’s nothing worse than co…

How Nonprofit Consulting Differs Outside the United States

When I was in Bologna, Italy, in May, making a presentation at the Festival of Fundraising, I was reminded of two things: First, consulting is less accepted in other parts of the world than it is in the United States. My Italian colleagues told me they were not easily accepted as an important tool for organizational progress. And, second,  for the most part consultants in Italy must have management backgrounds, in contrast to the United States, where it is not necessary for those who restrict t…


Who We Are Today and Where We Came From

Every year at the Association of Fundraising Professionals conference, dozens of consultants and vendors exhibit their services and wares in the conference marketplace. Some have been doing this for decades. But this year, at the conference in Vancouver, many of the exhibitors were of a far more recent vintage, well equipped to help and advise charities that use social media and other technology to raise money.

As professions mature, they have to change with the times, adapting to confront new n…


What’s New in Nonprofit Consulting? Everything.

Consulting for philanthropic groups bears little resemblance to what it was a decade or two ago, when the field was dominated by large firms and most consultants focused on basic fundraising. These days, the work is broader, more specialized, and more strategic. And in many ways, it offers greater flexibility—and broader appeal—than ever before. Here’s how:

  • Greater specialization: Information technology, social marketing, globalization, donor-directed philanthropic advisers, and blurring of the…