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When and How To Hire a Consultant for Your Nonprofit Organization

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When and How To Hire a Consultant for Your Nonprofit Organization

Sometimes, all the books, webinars, trainings, and conferences in the world just won’t cut it when it comes to your organization’s unique challenges. 

Consultants can bring a fresh set of eyes, high-level expertise, and a whole new perspective to help you design a solution tailored to your organization. 

But it can also be easy to swing and miss when it comes to working with an outside consultant. So it’s important to do the groundwork to understand when and how to hire one.

A nonprofit consultant presents to a client via online meeting. She is wearing a headset and smiling at her laptop screen.


When To Hire a Nonprofit Consultant

Consultants can fill a number of roles, serving as guides, gathering data, providing trainings, or helping you evaluate your organization’s programs and services. Consultants can even act as neutral third parties, making it easier to address larger-scale issues with your board or staff that might feel nearly impossible to adequately address on your own. 

When to hire a consultant really depends on your needs and the gap you’re looking to fill – whether that’s a particular challenge your organization is facing or a change you’re planning to make to your work, mission, or both.

There’s a catch, though: in order to work effectively with a consultant, your organization needs to be positioned correctly. This means that you’ve done the internal work to identify your needs and know what your big questions are, as well as prepared your board, leadership team, and staff to be ready to implement the consultant’s suggestions. 

The latter can be a particular sticking point for a lot of organizations that choose to bring on a consultant. It can be difficult to accept that long-held systems, processes, or beliefs need to be adjusted. But this is a key component of working successfully with any consultant you hire.

Different Types of Nonprofit Consultants

Consultants generally fall into a few different categories:

  • Governance, providing board training or guidance around things like strategic plans;
  • Financial, working with board or staff around fiscal management or investments;
  • Marketing, helping nonprofits with everything from public relations training to digital marketing; and
  • Fundraising, from grantwriting to major donors, capital campaigns, and more.

There are also consultants who focus solely on operational issues and can help you streamline all of your systems so that they work together seamlessly. You might also hire a nonprofit coach to work with your organization’s leadership. 

Once you’ve narrowed down the kind of consultant you need, start by asking around! Ask trusted partners in the nonprofit sector about consultants they’ve worked with in the past. This can help you gauge a consultant’s expertise, their process, and the results they were able to secure for another organization.

Hiring a Nonprofit Consultant

When vetting consultants for your nonprofit, there are questions that are important to ask:

  • Have you worked with an organization like ours before?
  • What’s your experience and comfort level with the issue area our organization works in?
  • Are you familiar with the community we serve?
  • Do you take on more than one client at once? If so, are there specific limits on your time or attention that we should be aware of? 
  • What kind of board and staff support will you need to complete this project? 
  • Will you provide us with a timeline that includes inputs from our board, staff, and leadership, as well as milestones, outcomes, and deliverables?

When you do decide to move forward with a consultant, make sure to have a written agreement in place. This contract should clearly discuss the scope of work, a detailed timeline (including deliverables), roles and responsibilities of all parties involved, communication protocols, and payment details.

Join a Membership Network

Hiring a consultant can be a great way to fill a gap in your organization’s services or operations without hiring an employee for the long term. It’s a way to get fresh eyes and a high level of expertise on a particular challenge your organization is facing.


If you can’t afford to hire a dedicated consultant, consider joining a network that provides resources and individualized support. NPO Centric’s membership program offers tools, resources, and step-by-step guidance for nonprofit leaders. Access your free trial today! >>