So, what are the latest trends in consulting? Well, most clients are seeing less of a need for “resident consulting.” Many organizations have more professional staff, less money, less time to spend with a consultant, or some combination of these three. Therefore, there may not be a need to engage a consultant that will literally live at the organization for the entire duration of a campaign. Most organizations feel more comfortable with a consultant that is on-site for a day or two at a time, or even a week at a time than those who have the consultant in the office daily.
And, an even more interesting turn of events is the “Virtual Consultant” who is never, or rarely, on site. Several entrepreneurial consultants have come up with ways to provide low-cost but experienced and knowledgeable consultants to these organizations who need help in specific areas, cannot afford a consultant, or perhaps are in remote areas where consultant travel expenses would be prohibitive.
On January 1st, 2014, 4Good.org combined IdeaEncore, Nonprofit Webinars, and Nonprofit-Direct. These three sites were all founded to help nonprofits by connecting them with resources and advice. More than 8,700 consultants are part of the 4Good community, and have provided free and low-cost tools for nonprofits. On 4Good, nonprofits can buy and download consultant products that fit their budget and schedule.
For consultants, it is a great way to monetize some of the materials they’ve developed and make them available to nonprofits that might not be in a position to engage a consultant. Consultants can post free samples and articles as part of their content marketing strategy. They sell valuable templates, checklists, and other documents that they’ve already developed.
The client-consultant relationship doesn’t have to stop at the download. 4Good can be the start of long-term consulting for those who need more than just tools. And for consultants new to the consulting game, it’s an effective way to build clientele. As Marilyn Donnellan found out, it could even be the first step to a book deal.
Another example is the Fundraising the SMART Way model, developed by Bristol Strategy Group. This program is a system to increase efficiency and effectiveness of the fundraising process by using metrics and key performance indicators. The program is delivered online through a series of sessions with the leadership team of nonprofits, either individually or in a cohort. The program is followed by a series of coaching sessions.
Using Fundraising the SMART Way, consultants and nonprofits from as far flung as Mexico and Scotland have been able to improve fundraising results without spending a cent on travel expenses.
At the end of any consulting arrangement—no matter how stellar, or not—an organization is well-served if staff analyze the process with an eye toward future outsourcing. When staff records lessons learned, that documentation can serve as key reminders next time consultant candidates march in for interviews. The more employees learn from each experience, the more equipped they become to help lead the engagement.
Susan Schaefer, CFRE and Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE
Co-editors of The Nonprofit Consulting Playbook: Winning Strategies from 25 Leaders in the Field. Buy it here: http://ow.ly/ZplPG