Does your nonprofit organization need to raise a significant amount of money via a capital campaign? If so, you may be wondering if it would be better to plan the campaign internally or to hire a consultant. Before making that decision, be sure you understand what to expect from a capital campaign consultant.
What Is a Capital Campaign Consultant?
A capital campaign consultant is a fundraising professional that helps clients plan capital campaigns. As expected, with any kind of consultant, they serve in an advisory capacity.
Common Services Provided
Capital campaign consultants a variety of services, as specified in the terms of the consulting agreement. Common capital campaign services include:
- Conduct feasibility research - Research to get a sense of whether it is feasible for the organization to operate a successful capital campaign
- Provide direction - Guide leaders through the process of establishing priorities for the campaign, and organizing the various steps to be performed
- Share strategies - Provide ideas for capital campaign strategies that are likely to help increase your organization's chances of meeting its goals
- Training - Train the organization's leadership, including the executive team and board of directors, on capital campaign best practices
What Not to Expect
You shouldn't expect capital campaign consultants to come in and directly raise money for you. Their role is to help you prepare and plan to run a successful campaign, not to actually run it. Capital campaign consultants generally don't perform services like:
- Soliciting gifts on the organization's behalf
- Identifying prospective donors
- Recruiting volunteers to work on the campaign
- Creating collateral materials (brochures, postcards, etc.)
- Following up with prospective donors
- Tracking contributions received
- Sending acknowledgments to donors
Should You Use a Capital Campaign Consultant?
There isn't just one right answer to whether you should use a capital campaign consultant or not. In some situations, it can be beneficial to work with a professional fundraising consultant in this capacity, but there are also drawbacks to consider.
Capital Campaign Consultant Benefits
There are a number of potential benefits associated with using a capital campaign consultant. Examples include:
- Objective perspective - Consultants provide an objective, third-party perspective that can reveal information that insiders might not observe themselves.
- Unique insights - A consultant's unique insights can help nonprofit leaders make an informed decision about whether it's the right time for a capital campaign.
- Specialized expertise - A consultant's specialized expertise in capital campaigns can help set your organization up for success with this type of fundraising.
- Extensive experience - Even if your organization has held capital campaigns before, chances are that a consultant who specializes in them has a lot more experience than the internal team.
- Successful track record - People who become capital campaign consultants usually have a long history of success with this specialized type of fundraising.
Capital Campaign Consultant Drawbacks
It's important to consider the potential drawbacks associated with using a capital campaign consultant before you decide to move forward.
- Financial cost - Most fundraising consultants charge between $500 - $1,000 per day, plus travel if required. This can add up to a significant expense for a charitable organization.
- Donor perceptions - Some donors may be off-put by the expenditure. They may feel that your organization is already well-funded enough if you have the money to pay a consultant.
- Volunteer perceptions - Some volunteers, especially those who help with fundraising, may resent the idea of paying someone to do what they see as being similar to what they do for free.
Factors to Consider
If you decide to move forward with hiring a capital campaign consultant, it's important to carefully address the potential drawbacks.
- Make sure your organization can afford the expense. While a consultant can help boost the effectiveness of a campaign, it's also possible that the research they do will lead to recognizing that it's not the right time for the organization to launch the campaign.
- Be transparent with donors and volunteers about why the organization is considering bringing in a consultant. Ask for their input and ideas so you can engage in the kind of dialogue that can lead to the buy-in you need from these key stakeholder groups.
How to Find a Capital Campaign Consultant
If you decide to move forward with bringing in a capital campaign consultant, the next thing you'll need to do is find a consultant who is a good fit for your organization.
- Past experience - Ask the other executives and board members to refer any consultants they have worked with in the past that they'd recommend.
- Networking contacts - Reach out to your counterparts at other nonprofit organizations to ask for recommendations of consultants with whom they've had good experiences in the past.
- Professional organizations - Check to see if there are any capital campaign consultants who are members of nearby Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) chapters or similar groups.
- Vendor referrals - Ask other consultants you've worked with, such as grant writing experts, if they have contacts who provide capital campaign consulting.
- Online research - If you aren't able to find a consultant via a personal or local connection, research online to identify capital campaign consultants that may be a fit for your organization's needs.
- Request for proposal (RFP) - Consider sending out an RFP to all fundraising companies in your state or region to see which firms apply to provide capital campaign services to your organization.
Questions to Ask About Capital Campaign Consultants
Unless a trusted contact provides you with a stellar recommendation of a consultant who is ideally suited for your organization, you'll need to talk with several consultants or consulting firms before making a decision.
- Ask questions about their background, including information about their experience with organizations similar to yours in similar communities.
- Inquire about the types of campaigns they have worked on, so you can get a sense of whether their experience is consistent with what your organization needs.
- Be prepared to answer questions from the consultants you are speaking with. Just like you, they are also interested in determining if your organization is a good fit for them.
- Request a few referrals from past clients so you can contact clients they have worked with in the past. Be sure to make such calls prior to entering into a consulting agreement.
Make the Right Decision for Your Organization
Running a successful capital campaign is different from other kinds of fundraising. Now that you have an understanding of what to expect from a capital campaign consultant, you can move forward with making a decision about whether it would be appropriate for your organization to bring in a consultant with this type of fundraising expertise.