Is it necessary or important to hire a consultant to do planning or can we do it ourselves?
There are many compelling reasons to hire a consultant. Perhaps you don’t have the expertise to guide the strategic planning process on your own. The right consultant will have experience in your field and bring context to the table – based on his/her experience – that may not be available to you independently. He or she can help facilitate a lay process so that all staff can participate, as well as offer an outside point of view that may very well yield some insights you haven’t considered.
If you do consider a consultant, make sure he or she understands and has experience with the various planning models available, so that he or she can assist you in making the best choice for your nonprofit. A good consultant should be able to provide multiple examples of his or her work that have been tailored to the needs of nonprofit clients. You’ll also want to make sure that a potential consultant’s style and process are a good fit for your organization. Take your time and get to know the people you may be engaging.
That said, hiring outside help is not always practical or even possible for smaller nonprofits. That’s one of the reasons we’ve developed this section. The decision to rely on internal vs. external resources should be made based on the availability of funds and the availability of in-kind support (such as a board member with expertise in this area).
If resources are particularly limited, you might consider hiring a consultant to facilitate and guide the process at fixed intervals (e.g., a board planning retreat). A trained facilitator can stimulate discussion and ask the right questions, while ensuring that the discourse remains objective and civil. He or she should also be willing to share observations about the discussion and thoughts on related implications. So, while a facilitator would not technically write the plan or implement the entire process, he or she is often in a position to jump in at just the right moment.