Funding to support nonprofit capacity building in Kent County, Michigan

Choosing a Consultant

Before you select a consultant …
1.    Define the problem you seek to address.
2.    Request written proposals from potential consultants.
3.    Conduct preliminary screening.
4.    Conduct initial interviews.
5.    Check references.
6.    Conduct final interviews and make selection.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and your staff when trying to determine if a consultant is a good fit for your organizations.   “Does the consultant . . .

  • Appear to be genuinely interested in your organization?
  • Demonstrate sufficient knowledge, capability, and experience related to the particular problems that your organization must address?
  • Provide you with references from other nonprofit organizations?
  • Begin the consultation at your organization’s level of sophistication?
  • Respect your organization’s skills, experience, and history?
  • Remember that the organization is their client, not necessarily the individuals representing it?
  • Listen carefully?
  • Gather all of the information necessary to understand your organization and to put the problem in its proper context?
  • Prepare adequately?
  • Balance the broader picture with the details of the specific problem?
  • Have a policy regarding confidentiality of all client information?
  • Accept the fact that the for-profit sector doesn’t always have the answers for nonprofits?
  • Realize that the skills, tools, and processes used by the consultant on a daily basis are not always directly applicable to your organization and may need adaptation or interpretation?
  • Avoid the role of “gatekeeper,” letting the client develop its own resources and contacts?
  • Practice teaching and enabling, instead of doing?

Writing the Work Plan and Contract:

To minimize the risk of misunderstanding, certain basic questions should be answered clearly in every technical assistance contract. The more effort put into the preparation of the contract, the less time and money will be spent resolving any disagreements. Usually, the Board of Directors will authorize the signing of the contract and each party should keep a signed copy.  Generally, the following list of items should be included in the preparation of a work plan and contract to engage a consultant:

  • Name of the parties to the contract, giving the full legal names of both the individuals and the corporations that these individuals represent.
  • Enumerate the objectives to be accomplished or tasks to be completed by the consultant as part of the work plan.
  • Describe the process of evaluating the assistance and the form in which it will be presented, such as a written report or a verbal discussion.
  • Identify any special considerations or additional requirements pertaining to the work – for instance, the provision of secretarial assistance in producing a final report.
  • Specify the amount of compensation to be paid to the consultant and the conditions under which it will be paid.
  • State the date it will go into effect.
  • Set a date by which the work is to be completed.
  • List the conditions under which the contract can be terminated.
  • Sign and date the contract.

Source:  Nonprofit Management Fund of Metropolitan Milwaukee and its Fund Advisors, Management Cornerstones, Inc.

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