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How to Find the Right Consultant for Your Charity

Finding the right consultant, especially for the first time, can be a challenging task. There are, after all, many companies and individuals out there selling advice and consultancy services. Most specialise in specific types of work, or in types of charity or causal areas. So how to find the right one to meet your needs?

Start by deciding internally what you wish to achieve, when you need to do this and what your budget is. Then prepare a written brief describing your situation, the task in hand and your specific requirements. Clarity at this stage will give you the best chance of success later.

The next step is to identify three or four consultants and send them your brief. Ask around to see which firms other charities have used. Check their websites. Ring them and ask if they are interested. Be prepared to answer questions and to meet with them if they ask, so both you and they can get a proper feel for the task in hand. Ask for a costed proposal and make your decision based on a combination of experience, "fit", chemistry (you need to be able to work well with whoever you choose) and value. Take up references if you need to and don't just buy on price but on who is best placed to deliver a good result.

Avoid the temptation to send out your brief to 20 or 30 consultants, in the hope this will attract the best proposal. It won't, as many firms will not waste time on open tenders and the chances of finding the most suitable firm that way are slim. Instead, invest some time engaging with a few good candidates and be willing to provide feedback to those you do not appoint. By taking this route, you have a good chance of finding the right consultant for your task. Some questions to ask at the selection stage:

· How long have you been practising?

· Are you a sole consultant or part of a wider team?

· What is your experience of working with organisations like ours?

· Have you done similar work recently? If so, who for?

· What is your fee basis? (don't ask for payment by results as you will not be taken seriously!).

· Have you got any case studies of work you have done in this field?

· Can you meet our timescales?

Once you have selected the best firm for the job, you will need to agree a contract with them. Most will have a standard contract for the type of work they are conducting and, if the work relates to fundraising, you will need to have one in place by law.

By following this approach, you are best placed to achieve a good outcome for your project. Finally, there is more advice on working with consultants here.

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