How do we choose and vet a consultant?

You need an outside perspective and you want to hire a consultant. You’re looking for someone with the expertise and objectivity to help you move forward and succeed. Where do you start?

First determine your needs.

Begin by examining your own organizational goals to determine what it is you really need help with. This is best achieved by determining your objectives and outlining any strategies you’ve applied to meet them.

Think about your resources. How much time do your employees and volunteers have available to dedicate to the tasks necessary to reach your goals? Do they have the requisite skills to achieve the right results? Answering these questions will enable you to identify gaps and define the tasks a consultant may take on. This will help you make the best use of any consultant you hire.

When you’re ready to hire, develop criteria to evaluate candidates.

Develop a list of questions to help you select candidates that fit. Interview at least two to three consultants before making a decision and be sure to discuss:

• Experience in your area of need and with your type of organization.
• Interest in the work your organization does.
• Track records of success.
• Their approach to working with nonprofits – how they plan to structure and check in on the work, and how they define expected outcomes.
• Cost estimates, what fees include, and how payment will be structured.
• Time frames for completion, and other commitments that might limit available time.
• Expectations for support from your employees, how you work and the resources you have available.

Once you’ve found a match, consider vetting your selection with professional colleagues. Develop a contract before work commences. Ask the consultant to provide work plans, contract amounts, billing arrangements, reporting structure and termination procedures.

For more information about working with consultants, refer to a reputable guide such as Nonprofit Consultants: How To Choose Them, How To Use Them. Find it at (click on Resources/Consultant Resource Directory).

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