Under current constraints, it is vital for charities to squeeze the most value from their resources. This includes selecting the right consultants for any projects they are developing. However, over the years, I have seen so many charities get the process wrong.
It goes something like this:
• The charity fails to think through properly what help it needs and, at best, cobbles together a weak brief.
• Staff send out the brief to as many consultants as they can find in directories and on the internet, which wastes a lot of people’s time, makes it harder to spot the right consultant and increases costs across the sector. (I have seen examples of 20 or more tender invitations being made, often for small pieces of work. Many consultants will not respond to these, unless they are short of work, which probably means they are not the best people to work with).
• They ask for written tenders instead of asking to meet the consultants to discuss their needs
• They then hold a “beauty parade” and make their choice based on subjective criteria.
• Very often they buy on price, taking the lowest offer and not the best solution for the job.
• As a result, because their process is flawed, they risk appointing the wrong advisor and getting a bad outcome (and presumably then blame the consultant!).
Here’s how it should happen to get the best result:
• The charity prepares a well thought out brief, setting out specifically and clearly what it seeks to achieve.
• It conducts proper research into potential advisors, including talking to other organisations and seeking their recommendations.
• Three or four consultants are invited to meet to discuss the brief, following which they submit proposals with a clear understanding of what is required.
• A decision is made, based on agreed criteria, including such things as the consultants’ expertise and track record in the specific area of support, chemistry (can you work with them?), value for money (not just price!), length of experience and reputation (consider taking references for similar work) and hygiene factors such as whether they are independently accredited and carry full insurance.
• A contract is signed, milestones are agreed and the work starts.
By taking a little care and getting the process right, a charity is far more likely to attract and identify the best consultant for the job and get the right outcome. Yes, it takes a bit more effort, but this will repay itself in the end.
See our FAQ’s on selecting consultants.
Simon George is a Director of Wootton George Consulting and a Fellow of the Institute of Fundraising. He has worked in fundraising since 1987 and was the founder of the IoF’s Trusts Special Interest Group. He works with a wide range of charities in a consultancy capacity, specialising in strategy, trusts and legacies. firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel 01785 663600.
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