Seven Scenarios To Consider Outsourcing Fundraising
July 22, 2015


Outsourcing is a welcome solution for many non-profits. Hiring a consultant can add value while reducing costs. Outsourcing IT, HR, Web, and other organizational functions makes sense.  But outsourcing fundraising sounds, well…totally crazy, right?


Yes and No.


You might feel strongly that it is a crazy idea, because fundraising involves cultivating, nurturing and maintaining highly complex and personal relationships with donors. These donor relationships are critical to the success and growth of your organization, so you insist they be personally stewarded by organizational staff and leadership. Doing so promotes a perception of continuity, stability, and ensures that your precious donors maintain a comfortable and familiar personal link to your cause.


I agree with you.


But beyond stewardship and direct solicitation, there are many areas of Fundraising where consultants add great value. The seven scenarios below represent a few important situations where, I believe, it would be totally crazy not to consider a consultant engagement solution.


1. Interim Leadership. 

Your Development Director gave notice. Because you realize it will take time to find the ideal replacement, you launch an extensive search process. Your Board would like someone in place as soon as possible, but you know a hasty hire is risky. Engaging an Interim Development Consultant will keep your fundraising train on-track by providing leadership and guidance to your staff and board during the search process. An interim consultant can oversee and execute the important campaigns and upcoming special events that you’ve been planning for months. And it’s surprisingly inexpensive: I’ve served in interim roles where a only part-time engagement (20 to 25 hours per week) was entirely sufficient. My clients got added value by including me in the skills-screening, interview, and hiring process for the new and permanent Development Director.


2. Retreats and Capacity Building.

You have a great group of smart and passionate fundraisers. They work hard in their respective areas, but you would like a more cohesive team. You need to find ways to incorporate group learning, improve team communication, and integrate best practices. A staff retreat would be an ideal solution to get to know each other on a deeper level, while addressing some these issues. Retreats are an important reprieve from work, but should also include some aspect of group learning and discovery, based on the needs of the group. In the past, I’ve incorporated group problem-solving, time management, work/life balance, and other activities as elements of staff retreats. Board retreats can focus on a wide variety of topics, but development capacity building can be a part of their retreat agenda (or, it can be a stand-alone forum). For Board members, I tend to focus on their engagement in mission and the critical role they play in fundraising. Skills-building, donor/solicitor role-plays and other practical activities improve performance while building the confidence necessary for their success. Perhaps most importantly, outsourcing enables the Development Director or Executive Director to participate (rather than facilitate),in the retreat or capacity building forum..


3. Strategic Planning.

Strategic Planning is a complex, time-consuming, and demanding undertaking. The engagement of an outside consultant to facilitate the process is well worth the investment. This critically-important, future-focused activity often includes interviews or surveys of key stake-holders, and in-depth analysis of organizational performance. It requires diplomacy and consensus-building expertise, and the work should result in a formal plan that includes goal clarity, detailed strategies, implementation benchmarks, timeline specifics and important contingencies. Consultants can navigate the process; engaging key constituents, identifying strategic options, and perhaps most importantly, assuring that the Plan is grounded in a shared understanding of what is realistic for the organization given its financial, staffing, and time-based constraints.


4. Capital Campaign Planning.

Like Strategic Planning, Capital Campaign Planning is a very complex process, and demands a very-specific consultant skill-set. It is a time-intensive and often prolonged undertaking. The consultant’s objectivity will help their ability to facilitate the process. The project begins with a Feasibility Study and survey of key stakeholders (staff, board, donors, clients, and volunteers), to determine likely participants, champions, and lead donors. The feasibility study will tell you whether your organization should proceed with the campaign (if it is indeed, feasible). In-depth prospect research is critical to success, as is the planning of gift levels, attributions, and potential naming opportunities. Do not try this in-house. Outsourcing is essential!


5. Special Events.

High-profile events like annual galas and dinners are expensive, labor-intensive, but often necessary undertakings. They usually involve a seasonal peak in staff planning and fundraising activities. Outsourcing is an ideal solution, as it allows you to take on additional help while in your peak-period, rather than ramping up your full-time, year-round events team. There are two main areas of focus: Fundraising and Logistics/Production. I recommend leaving the majority of fundraising effort in-house to maintain person to person contact and continuity with your major donors. However, outsourcing the logistics and production is often the best solution for an organization. The consultant would manage a variety of details, including: venue, menu, permits, sponsorship levels, silent auction management, theme, design, invitations, talent, program, media, public relations, and day of event management. This lets you and your staff focus on fundraising, and enables your team to actually spend time with your valuable donors during the event.


6. Direct Response Campaigns.

Direct Response Campaigns often include a mix of traditional Direct Mail approaches and E-mail Campaigns for online giving. The campaigns require a very specific narrative style, as well as a strong analytical skill set which you may not have in-house. An outside consultant is a great help here, and can work with you to develop effective and compelling appeals, and assist with segmenting your donor database for solicitation. This form of fundraising is more science than art, and a seasoned expert can provide guidance and in-depth statistical analysis of campaign results, which are used to refine future campaigns. There are several excellent consulting firms that do this, (and only this), and they do it better than anyone.


7. Proposal, Report and Grantwriting.

Good grantwriters are hard to come by. If you don’t have one on staff, you probably already outsource your proposals and reports. If you are fortunate enough to have a great grantwriter on your team, I would still strongly suggest that you build a deep bench of grantwriting consultants for contingencies. There may be occasions where you have multiple proposal opportunities, but your staff grantwriter cannot realistically handle the production volume. Here, outsourcing is again, an elegant solution that saves you time and money, while adding value.


In all situations, an outside consultant will provide a new perspective of your organization and a fresh approach to your work. They can share valuable and objective assessments of your case(s) for giving, your team, you board, and your development or grantmaking systems .So don’t hesitate to bring someone in as-needed, whether it be a specialist or a generalist. A consultant can help improve your board and staff’s fundraising performance, while providing you with maximum flexibility and minimum risk.

And there is nothing crazy about that.


Call us to discuss your needs.
Because even the best organizations
sometimes need a little outside help.