Does a nonprofit need a consultant to help them?
Using the services of a consultant can be beneficial in several instances, such as when you don’t have the necessary expertise or time, when you’ll benefit from an objective point of view (and one could argue that this is always the case), or when it’s required by a funder.
To the latter point, some government and philanthropic funding will require an independent evaluation. In that case, the donor institution will likely select – or at least approve – the evaluation consultant. If this is the case, consider yourself lucky and push for the most rigorous evaluation possible. Your organization and your field will be better for it.
If you do decide to utilize the services of a consultant, there are many resources available to help you select the right one. For example, the American Evaluation Association (www.eval.org) offers a list of member evaluators by location and areas of expertise. You might also consider asking trusted colleagues and others in your field for recommendations. For organizations located in Southern California, the Center for Nonprofit Management (www.cnmsocal.org) provides trainings and workshops to help guide you through this process.
It’s reasonable to expect potential consultants to develop a proposal that outlines their experience, approach to the project, past work samples, references and budget. Soliciting proposals from several evaluators will help you to understand the range of possibilities and enable you and your board to make a fully informed decision. You’ll also want to interview candidates with your board to ensure that the evaluator you choose is a good match for your organization’s style and culture.
One final note: A good consultant can also serve an important role in helping your staff and board understand the basic principles of evaluation and the role it plays in carrying out your work. To that end, organizations often find it helpful to build in an internal education component (e.g., a special meeting or brown-bag lunch that addresses the topic and answers questions) to the consultant’s scope of work.
Need help choosing a consultant?
Visit managementhelp.org (www.managementhelp.org/staffing/consulting.htm) for step-by-step tips.