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Downes Murray International News

Who needs a fundraising consultant?

A look at the various functions of fundraising consultancy will begin to explain this trend. The ideal client/ consultancy relationship is a partnership.

Goals are usually defined in two ways – fundraising programme growth and income budgets. Targets for programme growth often consist of a defined number of new donors on the database, or the implementation of a properly planned major gifts component, or perhaps the introduction of bequest promotion. Financial budgets are usually measured in additional net income.

What are the various roles that the consultant can fill? Too often there is a misconception within non-profit organisations that the consultant whom they see on a day-to-day basis is the only person involved in their campaign.

Nothing could be further from the truth – especially in a direct mail fundraising programme. Within the consultancy, a team of at least four people, typically the account executive, media director, copywriter and creative director, meet to discuss and plan strategies for the coming year. Once the creative brief is decided and the number of mailings agreed, the next step is the selection and negotiation of rented mailings lists. This too requires specialist knowledge and often a longstanding relationship with list brokers.

Envelope, print and computer bureau prices are negotiated and compared with the previous and other recent quotations. Where necessary, competitive quotations are sought. A timing schedule is drawn up to ensure that each mailing mails on time.

Once the mailing is over and the responses are in, another person within the consultancy team compiles and analyses statistics – comparing results and preparing the conclusions that will lead to the right decisions to increase responses and income in the future.

Apart from the whole range of skills that go into strategising, designing and providing a successful mail appeal programme, there are many other roles which professional counsel can fill. These include:

  • Facilitating strategic planning sessions
  • Executive recruitment
  • Team building
  • Fundraising software guidance
  • Implementation of thanking and donor recognition programmes
  • Feasibility studies to prepare for capital fundraising campaigns
  • Fundraising audits to advise on improvements and additions to existing development programmes
  • Proposal writing
  • Leadership, staff, volunteer and board development and training
  • Bequest prospect identification and promotion
  • Public relations and marketing. The American Association of Fundraising

Counsel lists four main reasons to use outside consultants:

1. Productivity

Consultants increase the efficiency and productivity of the organisation by allowing the not-for-profit staff to concentrate on their true role — that of service delivery.

2. Objectivity

Outside consultants see the organisation more objectively than permanent staff and can often raise concerns and suggest solutions that internal staff may be reluctant to discuss.

3. Expertise

Fundraising consultants are experts at working with all kinds of programmes and institutions. As a result they bring many options for the client to consider and can advise on what works and what doesn’t. Counsel can also help recruit top business people to assist in not-forprofit cause – as corporate representatives often applaud the employment of consultants as a good ‘businesslike’ move.

4. Cost control

  • Most importantly, good fundraising consultants are cost-effective and have a high success rate. As most consultants depend, for future business, upon referrals from satisfied clients, they have every reason to ensure that each client’s fundraising programme succeeds. In conclusion, a good partnership between a not-for-profit organisation and a fundraising consultant has these essential ingredients:
  • A mutual respect and trust which recognises the knowledge and expertise which exists in both parties.
  • Commitment to meeting agreed deadlines.
  • A sharing of ideas and experiences – from the not-for-profit organisation – stories of people being helped, letters from grateful recipients, details of new projects and directions.
  • From the consultant – advice on what is ‘hot’ and what is not in other parts of the country and the world.
  • Regular quarterly review meetings where progress is assessed and open, frank discussion ensues on matters of mutual concern which may affect fundraising success.

When these are in place, then your fundraising programme is virtually assured of successful growth and sustainability.

With acknowledgement to the late Terry Murray.

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