“A consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time”. Anonymous

This was the response I got most when explaining that I was leaving my post as an Executive Director of Fundraising to become a Senior Consultant.  So after 5 months as a consultant, I wanted to share with you what I have learned from the inside and how you can get the best of your consultant and your budget.

No fundraiser is an island. As a consultant, we might not have office water-cooler moments, but we work as a team and with your team. What I’ve learned is that the charities doing the best fundraising are often those learning and sharing most, those that seek other views, outside expertise, experience and objectivity. Conferences help with outside snapshots, but consultants can give you practical in-depth insights, options and directions.

Your consultant is an extension of your team. I worried before becoming a consultant that I would not be part of a charity family anymore. However, the consultants I’ve now worked with approach every project with the same passion and commitment as the staff. And if you want to get the best from them, include your consultant as you would your team member, meeting frequently, checking in and updating them even if there is no current project together.

Consultants know everybody. Because we’ve each worked in the sector for around 20 years, the consultants at THINK know everybody. If you need to find out who has done it before and who is doing it well, talk to your consultant. If you want an introduction to a specific charity, ask your consultant. If you have a need for new staff to fill a gap, tell your consultant. If they don’t know somebody useful, they will make it their mission to find out. It’s part of the job to be connected and networked.

There’s a lot more help out there if you look for it. As a consultant, we’ve already been engaged for reviewing strategy and key issues, shaping team days and workshops, reviewing effectiveness of the department and for inspiring new ideas. The benefits of having someone on hand as an adviser or mentor with whom to work through challenges and find a path to success cannot be underestimated. I wish I had made the time and investment to take advantage of the consultant services on offer when I was a fundraising director.

Consultants are like wine. There is a huge choice and a price range to suit every budget. Some go well with particular projects; some go with others. Most improve with age/experience. And nobody chooses a Chardonnay unless they have to! Finding a consultant that suits your organisation and budget constraints, and one that you know you like working with, and you will have found a good partner for all your projects. People chemistry is key to 21st century consultancy.

And finally, consultants provide support when resources and skills are stretched and help to keep key thinking for the future on track. We have all spent hours and sleepless nights, trying to find the time to address the ‘important but not urgent’. You could do a lot worse than taking on a good consultant to address this. It’s what we’re here for – whilst you and your team continue to keep donors and income generation at the front of your every day business.