I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that CampaignCounsel.org is the best capital campaign consultancy in the world! We have great success stories, amazing projects, smart-as-a-whip team members, and an impressive scope of experience. To my dismay, however, our company is not hired by every organization that is going into a campaign. The reason? We are not the best consulting company for every project.
It is easy to find the biggest group, or the one with the most experience in your market, or the one that employs your board president’s niece. But finding the best fundraising consultant for your project will take a bit more time. I have written on selecting a consultant before, but the most important aspect of the process—personally knowing whom you are hiring—is often overlooked. Why? Here’s a quick list of the reasons I’m often told:
We are in a hurry to get started; it’ll take too long to meet with them personally.
It costs a lot of money to get here; we’re afraid that personal meetings might deter some companies from submitting an RFP.
It is not necessary to meet with applicants in person; we trust that we’ll get qualified professionals working for us.
The fault with these reasons or excuses is that they do not address two important facts:
You are entering a long-term relationship. The time it takes to complete a feasibility study and capital campaign is two years, minimum. Do you want to work with someone, or with a team of people, for that long whom you have never had a face-to-face conversation with?
You are hiring a representative for your organization. The exposure your consultant will have during your capital campaign is small, but during your feasibility study it is considerable, and it is with your top donors and community leaders. Don’t you want to know how he or she handles and presents him- or herself prior to that time?
For these reasons, time, money, and convenience should not be limiting factors in hiring your capital campaign consultant. The decision is just too important, which is why I strongly encourage any nonprofit or non-governmental organization in the hiring process to take these additional get-to-know-you steps:
Telephone: you won’t always get the consulting group’s top leaders to a personal presentation, but you should be able to speak with them over the phone. Take this time to learn about the company’s fundraising philosophy and why your project is a good fit.
Presentation: make sure that the consultants who will be doing the work are in attendance during the presentation. You need to see who will be representing you in the community. And ask them tough questions! Experienced consultants can easily provide brilliant answers to most fundraising questions. Put some pressure on them and see how they react. A few examples of tough questions are: “Have you ever been fired from a project, and, if so, why?” “What recourse do we have if we’re not happy with your service performance?”
One more item for consideration: ask questions that will indicate the consultants’ ability to listen and empathize. A multiple-part question that blends your organization’s mission with its financial goals can help you select the best candidate. Here’s an example: “We need to raise $10 million within 5 years while maintaining an annual operating budget of $2 million. How do we balance the two while remaining mission focused?”
In summary, if you want to hire the best consulting company in the world, take the time to hire the best people—that means taking the time to meet with them personally.
Below is a list of additional resources that may help you plan for your capital campaign.
Kevin Wallace is president of CampaignCounsel.org, specializing in capital campaign planning and management. Kevin has more than 16 years of capital campaign experience, conducting more than 70 campaign planning studies and capital campaigns around the country that have raised more than $175 million. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.campaigncounsel.org.