At some point in your nonprofit work, you may need to hire a consultant. Whether it’s a technology consultant retained to help you choose the right fund accounting software for your organization, or a marketing consultant to assist in building a great website, consultants are a smart way to expand your team with the expertise required to complete a project.
Consultants are experts in their field. They are seasoned professionals who choose to work with a variety of organizations rather than spend their time with just one. They are truth-tellers whose main objective is to help you solve a problem.
There are several tricks to finding a terrific consultant and achieving successful project goals together. Here are our top steps to accomplish your goals with your consultants and to work successfully together.
Tips to Work Together with Consultants
- Build a good rapport with your consultants so you can trust and have confidence in their suggestions. Communications must be clear and understandable; while consultants are experts, they shouldn’t speak in such lengthy jargon that you can’t understand what they are trying to say. Speak up if you don’t understand anything and be sure to ask plenty of questions. Consultants are there to help you, and they should be able to answer your questions in ways that you understand.
- Set expectations in writing. Although you may have discussed the nuances of your project, it is easy to forget the details once the work begins or other projects take center stage. Having expectations, goals, milestones, and dates in writing with your consultant ensures that there is no ambiguity around the work undertaken, the definition of when a project is complete, and other details of the project.
- Establish communication channels and preferences at the start of the engagement. Consultants should be flexible about the method and frequency of communications. Some people prefer instant messages while others prefer telephone communications. Make sure your preferences are known at the start of the project. Also discuss frequency of communications; how often will the consultant check in with you? Do you require progress reports or other reports for your Board or supervisors? Clarify communication expectations in writing early in the project to avoid frustration on both sides.
- Identify people in your organization with whom the consultant should work. Establishing who the consultant should communicate with inside your organization is equally as important as establishing the method and frequency of communication. To ensure the consultants always have someone available, identify one to three people that the consultant can contact for questions and a discussion of issues.
- Discuss boundaries. Consultants are not employees. At some point in the project, their work ends, and yours begins. They will pass on their recommendations to you to implement. Have a plan in place to initiate their recommendations as soon as they are accepted. If you do not have a plan for implementation, you may have a great document from the consultant that sits on a shelf gathering dust.
Consultants add a great deal of value to an organization, but you can only benefit from their expertise if you communicate well, trust their judgment, and establish who will take their work on to the finish line.
Welter Consulting is a technology firm empowering nonprofit and government organizations with effective software, consulting & training that can help you with your accounting needs. We are committed to finding the most affordable technology, the most powerful solution, and providing expert support. By leveraging technology and superior reporting, our team helps to free more of your time to devote to the important work of your mission. We bridge people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We are passionate professionals who choose to work in the nonprofit sector for the same reason you do – helping others. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.