You do it, so don’t you think we do it, too? While I cannot speak for every fundraising consultant, I can tell you, based on my experience in being one for 11+ years and knowing lots of them... we’re talking about you. It’s not all bad, though. Some of it is nice, some of it is neutral, and some of it is really helpful for you and your organization. Here’s a peek behind the curtain:
“I don’t know what to do.”
I don’t want to shock you, but (brace yourself for this one): your fundraising consultant does not have all of the answers. Not by a long shot. In fact, if I were you, I would be wary of any fundraising consultant who tells you she has all the answers. If she says that, she’s probably full of it.
There is great value in knowing what you don’t know, and in having a strong network of other fundraising consultants and professionals to which you can turn for advice, feedback, and suggestions. If your fundraising consultant doesn’t have that network, or if he only wants to stick to the things he knows, your organization might be missing out on some powerful growth opportunities.
“Why won’t they get back to me?”
This is one of the great mysteries of the consulting world. You spend money to hire us, we create plans for you, and then you won’t return our calls or emails. I’ve noticed that this happens more frequently when we both have deliverables for which we are accountable, e.g. I need you to answer these 5 questions about your program in order for me to draft the grant proposal you asked for. This is probably because I’m not one of those consultants who will promise to do everything for you, and you won’t have to lift a finger to raise any money. If I were you, I would be very wary of those consultants, too.
Yes, we know that crises come up, organizational fires need to be put out, etc. We also know that you get sick, your kid gets sick, your computer servers go berzerk, your board chair is visiting the office, and the dog ate your homework. Here’s the thing: your donors will not wait for you. If you want to raise money in a sustainable way, to have the operating dollars you need on an ongoing basis, you’re going to have to make the time for this. Even if it’s your least favorite thing to do.
“I’m not a magician.”
Once you hire us, you cannot wash your hands of the whole dirty business of fundraising. We are not magicians. We cannot wave our magic wands and produce huge fundraising numbers for you, as if by sleight of hand. For better or worse, we are in this together. It’s a partnership, and you are going to have to be in it with us. You will have to share your information, contacts, and passion for your work. You probably are also going to have to ask people for money. Don’t be afraid! We will do everything we can to prepare you for this. We will arm you with all of the information and tools that you need. We’ll coach you through it. But to be really effective for your organization, we cannot do the whole thing for you.
(As a side note: Yes, we are going to hold you accountable. But you should also hold us accountable. Hold us to the high standards to which you hold yourself. This partnership is a two-way street.)
Oh, and that whole “golden rolodex” thing? The idea that we have a list of donors whom we can call up and ask for money at the drop of a hat, and they will just open their checkbooks and checks with huge numbers will come fluttering out, like doves at the end of a fairytale wedding? It’s bull. It’s an urban myth. Trust me, you are better off letting go of that rescue fantasy.
“They do really good work.”
Your fundraising consultant believes in you and your organization. We think you do great work! If we didn’t think that, we wouldn’t have taken the gig. I have never met a fundraising consultant who is not passionate about their clients and who does not want them to succeed. Actually, not just succeed, but thrive. It might not seem like it when we are pushing you to do more and do better, but we really do want you to do well. Believe in us. We believe in you.