Should I hire an employee or consultant to develop and implement our communications plan?

In an ideal world, you’d have a department dedicated to communications, staffed by experts in the area. But in the nonprofit sector, employees often wear many hats, simply taking on responsibilities as tasks arise. So, whether you’re able to hire an employee or consultant who specializes in communications, will probably come down to what you can afford.

To make the best use of the resources and budget you have, first, look at your needs and then assess your staff skill set. Determine the ability of your current employees to develop and tackle the communications strategies you need to meet your goals. Can your in-house resources be diverted to communications work without sacrificing other programs? Do you have a staff member with skills and interest in the area? If so, consider training current staff and prioritizing strategies to what you can manage with the resources you already have.

If you don’t have the right skills in-house or you can’t sacrifice staff time, you’ll want to consider hiring an employee or consultant for the job. Hiring an employee is, of course, a long-term commitment, so to start, you may want to bring in an expert on a project basis. It may be tempting to engage an intern for communications functions, particularly in social media, given how adept young people can be in that space. However, it’s important to remember that communications is what drives your organization’s external presence so those responsible for it must possess the right skill set.

Project hires can be a cost-effective way to develop a strategic communications plan or implement a single communications campaign. Sometimes, an outsider’s objective point of view, especially during research phase, can also bring a fresh perspective to a project.

If you do choose to hire a consultant for a specific project, you’re going to want to find the right fit. Look at track records and creative processes, and always check references. To avoid confusion and maximize time and budget, ensure the scope of the project is clearly defined, with a beginning, a middle and an end. And along the way, be prepared to provide the consultant with the support he or she requires to get the work done effectively.

Still not sure? Here are six good reasons to hire a consultant:

  1. No one in-house has the expertise you need.
  2. You have the know-how but not the time.
  3. You’re too close to the issue and can’t be impartial.
  4. The project is confidential and inappropriate to assign internally.
  5. You need an expert’s credentials to help you sell your board.
  6. You need help on several levels, so it’s not cost effective to hire a single person.

Source: Cause Communications Toolkit

To learn more about hiring a consultant, read Managing People.

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