fundsforNGOs – Grants and Resources for Sustainability

NGO Management: Using Consultants in your Organisation

The European Journalism Centre's Special Call

Successful organisations have great staff at their heart. Your staff have the greatest influence on the success or failure of your organisation and the cause you are fighting for. With limited budgets it can be difficult for non-profit organisations to maintain a staff with all of the skills they need to develop their organisation, which is why hiring consultants on a temporary basis can be a great resource. They can create additional capacity in your non-profit that can enable you to do more as well as provide a highly experienced and knowledgeable resource for your business.

Consultants, whether in the form of individuals or agencies, can add temporary skills, knowledge and capacity to organisations looking to kick-start, develop or evaluate certain areas of their work. You can find consultants in most countries in the world that can support your NGO in every aspect of management, administration and service delivery. From grant fundraising and volunteer management to legal advice and public policy, the chances are that you will be able to find a consultant in your area with the skills and experience that you are looking for.

Before you decide to approach a consultant consider exactly what it is you want them to do. Explore other in house options first, do any existing staff, volunteers or board members have the skills, knowledge or desire to be involved in the project?  If you live in an area with a university or college have you considered approaching them to offer valuable work experience as an alternative to hiring a consultant.

Non-profit organisations have to be accountable with their funds and if you have an opportunity to use less expensive resources such as board members and volunteers to cut down on costs then you should keep the option open. Even if you do decide to pursue a consultant to assist your organisation you could reduce the number of hours you need them for if you have a volunteer who can help them with some of the work.

If you find suitable staff will they have the time and resources to do their existing job and the new task? Ask yourself what extra support might they need to do the job well? If you find an internal solution it is important that workers are properly supported to be able to do the job well.

You can begin your search for a consultant by asking friends and colleagues in other non-profit organisations if they can recommend anyone. If you are a member of any non-profit groups or associations there is a good chance that someone will be able to suggest an individual or agencie. Another way to source a consultant is to post on online forums such as LinkedIn or another professional networking group to request information. A simple internet search can also provide a wealth of information on individuals and organisations who provideconsultancy services for non-profits.

Different consultants will offer different services at different prices. Some may offer highly technical solutions whilst others may propose more basic answers to your problems. Your consultant may provide services that include the complete management of a particular area whilst others will provide limited services and ask that overall oversight is supplied by your non-profit. Many are flexible and there is enough competition in the market to be able to find someone who works in the way you’ve envisioned.

Selecting a suitable candidate to support your organisation requires similar knowledge, management and skills as hiring full time staff. You should aim to produce a job desription that includes a title, number of hours to be worked, job description and a list of expected outcomes with anticipated end dates. You can use this information to first attract suitable candidates as well as a future reference point for recruitment and management going forward.

Make sure to meet face to face with your prospective candidates to enable you to ask questions and to get a better understanding of how they might be able to benefit your organisation. As with an interview for a full time member of staff, you should take the opportunity to try and evaluate their skills, qualities and experience during the interview as well considering how they would fit within your organisation. Remember to check your consultants references before coming to an agreement. Remember to always check your consultant’s references, ideally over the phone.

Once you and your organisation are satisfied that you have found the right person for the job it is time to tie up the remaining odds and ends. You will need to negotiate a fee with your consultant, this may include some payment up front, along with a payment schedule for the period ahead. Both parties will also need to sign a detailed written agreement that details each others expectations, responsibilities and legal duties. Many organisations will simply adapt their standard existing contracts for employees for consultants.

Recruiting a consultant is a similar process to hiring employees. Your organisation may have an established process and checklist for employing staff that could provide a suitable guide. If not, we’ve produced a list of items to consider before you make the decision to bring a consultant into your organisation.

Once you have everything in place you can bring your consultant on board and set them to work on the task at hand. With effective management and a sound recruitment process consultants can add significant value in the short term to your organisation’s work, helping you to do more than otherwise would be possible.

Do you use consultants in your non-profit? Have you considered doing so? Let us know in the comments section.

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