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Downes Murray International News

Who needs a fundraising consultant?

The ideal client/consultancy relationship is a partnership. An arrangement where the consulting staff develop a sense of ’ownership’ in the non-profit organisation and work together towards agreed goals.

These goals are usually defined in two ways – fundraising programme growth and income budgets. Programme growth targets often consist of a defined number of new donors on the database, or the implementation of a properly planned major gifts component, or the introduction of a new programme. Financial budgets are usually measured in additional net income which can often be achieved by investing more rather than less money in fundraising.

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 (the Account director, 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 and nature of mailings agreed, the next step is the selection and negotiation of rented mailings lists. This too requires a specialist knowledge and often a long-standing relationship with list brokers and list owners.

A timing schedule is drawn up to ensure that each mailing is produced and posted on time, because one of the great dangers of a badly planned programme is that one mailing arrives almost on top of another.

After 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 to increase responses and income in the future. Finally, a team of creative, management and media staff critically examine each mailing package and note ideas for improvements.

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
  • Advice on improvements and additions to existing development programmes
  • Proposal writing and support for corporate, trusts and foundation giving
  • Leadership, staff, volunteer and board development and training
  • Bequest promotion
  • Public relations, marketing and awareness programme guidance
  • 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 non-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 expert 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.
  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 a client’s fundraising programme succeeds.

    In conclusion, a good partnership between a non-profit organisation and a fundraising consultant has the following essential ingredients:
    • A mutual respect and trust which recognises the knowledge and expertise which exists in both parties.
    • Commitment to meeting agreed deadlines both from the consultant and client.
    • A sharing of ideas and experiences.
    • From the consultant – advice on what is ‘hot’ and what is not in other parts of the country and the world and an objective assessment of fundraising ideas and propositions which may have been offered to the client by others.
    • Regular 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 Terry Murray.

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