12+ Roles of a Fundraising Consultant

Updated: Feb 14

How organizations grow impact and revenue with expertise


As a #nonprofit leader, board member, fundraiser, and development professional, you might consider working with a professional fundraising consultant to increase fundraising revenue and have more impact on your mission.


You may never have worked with a #fundraising consultant before, or you may have worked with only one kind of fundraising consultant so it may be a little confusing, or you may not be aware of the range of fundraising consultants that exist.


Understanding the different roles of a fundraising consultant will help you leverage the opportunity of working with the consultant, help clarify expectations upfront, and allow you to create a strong partnership to achieve agreed-upon outcomes and deliverables.


How can you decide what is best for your organization and how you can meet your philanthropic objectives? Let's take a deeper look at the various roles a fundraising consultant might take on.

12+ ROLES OF A FUNDRAISING CONSULTANT

The role of the #fundraising consultant may overlap during the engagement or be sequenced, and the functions may vary depending on the mutually developed scope of the engagement, your #nonprofit organization's needs and objectives, and certainly on the consultant's expertise and background.


1-Analyst and Auditor: As an Analyst and Auditor, the fundraising consultant seeks to learn about, understand, and evaluate the nonprofit's fundraising needs, resources, fundraising activities, and philanthropic revenue model (i.e., annual fund, major gifts, fundraising events, institutional grants, Board giving, grassroots, and community campaigns).


This assessment is essential to any effective fundraising intervention. A consultant must understand how the organization's fundraising operates and is structured before making any recommendations for improving how it raises funds to complete its mission.


Based on this assessment, the fundraising consultant determines the best path forward to improve the fundraising environment and programs to meet organizational goals, for example, boosting philanthropic income, improving fundraising performance, or developing new charitable revenue streams.


From the Analyst and Auditor role, the consultant can easily become a Capacity Builder.


2-Capacity Builder: The fundraising consultant steps into the role of Capacity Builder to help nonprofits thrive in a competitive philanthropic world and ensure organizations can fulfill their missions. To that end, the fundraising consultant aims to build organizational fundraising capacity.


For example, the fundraising consultant guides an organization in developing and strengthening its in-house talents - its professional and volunteer team. He/she helps maximize the nonprofit and fundraising operations and resources (systems, processes, CRM, fundraising budget, materials). In addition, the consultant might focus on capitalizing on the nonprofit's strengths (e.g., a clear mission, strategic partnerships, effective programs, leadership).


3-Advisor and Expert: The fundraising consultant serves as an ongoing Advisor and Expert on the professional and volunteer fundraising team.


In hiring an experienced fundraising consultant, the organization gets immediate access to advanced skills, resources, and expertise. Usually, the organization retains fundraising counsel for an extended time (6 months or more), so its professional and volunteer leadership benefit from receiving their ongoing advice and support.


The Advisor and Expert may provide oversight and insights and hands-on project work that has a major impact on the organization. It depends on the consultant.


Their expertise may include overall fundraising strategy or expanding into new areas, strengthening existing fundraising programs. It might consist of specific fundraising areas such as major gifts, fundraising campaigns, campaign planning studies, donor engagement, board development, foundation grants, or prospect research.


4-Problem Solver and Solution Designer: As a Problem Solver and Solution Designer, the fundraising consultant helps an organization meet its philanthropic goals by working with organizational leaders to overcome obstacles and challenges they have identified or encountered in the day-to-day fundraising process. Drawing on experience in other settings, the consultant can co-create a unique set of solutions that leverage organizational and philanthropic opportunities.


5-Strategist and Goal-Setter: The fundraising consultant is a Strategist focused on developing a goal-oriented, realistic, and effective overall fundraising plan with concrete goals. It provides comprehensive guidance and a framework for an action plan that addresses HOW to implement the strategy. The consultant also provides ongoing advice to a nonprofit to make strategic fundraising choices that enable short-term and long-term success.


6-Action Pathfinder: The role of Action Pathfinder is to translate the fundraising strategy and overall plan into day-to-day actions that follow thorough and tested processes and steps. It motivates and guides the organization toward the agreed-upon goal and enables accountability. It defines responsibilities that are essential to attaining overall or specific fundraising goals. Examples include engaging a fundraising consultant in preparation for a capital campaign and later developing the path for the campaign's quiet and public phase.


7-Researcher: As a Researcher, the fundraising consultant identifies and evaluates two groups of donors: donors already involved with the organization and those without any existing relationships with the nonprofit.


For the first group, the fundraising consultant evaluates organizational giving records to segment individual donors according to philanthropic giving level and then utilizes advanced prospect research methods (philanthropic and wealth screening, foundation research) to identify a "stretch" giving target for those donors.


For the second group, the fundraising consultant identifies prospective individual and foundation funders who have an affinity for the organization's mission philanthropic capacity and links to someone associated with the organization. Based on the research, the fundraising consultant recommends engagement, cultivation, and gift solicitation strategies to increase, for example, annual philanthropic revenue, donor retention and acquisition, and donor satisfaction and loyalty.


8-Relationship Builder: The fundraising consultant invests in building relationships with the organization's core leadership team, building on the fact that philanthropy is highly personal. Charitable giving is motivated by donors' passions, emotions, and personal experiences with the mission and organization. The fundraising consultant can partner with you to create a donor-centered fundraising strategy that values donor experiences and preferences and helps put meaningful relationships with donors front and center.


That includes, for example, designing meaningful donor and stakeholder experiences for the organization. Such experiences will help the organization deepen relationships and trust - prerequisites for making an ask and inviting constituents to support the organization. The fundraising consultant generally doesn't bring donors to the organization they consult because of the personal nature of a donor's connection to a cause and an organization.


9-Partner: The fundraising consultant is a trusted Thought Partner who has the nonprofit's best interest in mind. The fundraising consultant provides objectivity and offers new ideas and alternative solutions. By partnering with, and investing in, a fundraising consultant, the organization sends a message to its stakeholders and donors that it's a priority for the organization to achieve fundraising results in a smart, cost-effective way.


10-Cheerleader: As a Cheerleader, the consultant empowers professionals and volunteers to tap into and develop their leadership skills. The fundraising consultant leads with positivity and a can-do attitude to help organizational staff and Board members fulfill the organization's mission.


Sometimes, nonprofit leaders need an objective fundraising colleague outside of the organization's day-to-day, which keeps things in perspective and motivates staff and Board members to move forward.


11-Coach and Trainer: Many experienced fundraising consultants naturally step into the role of Coach and Trainer. The consultant assists the team in developing professional skills needed to successfully meet their fundraising goals, drawing on best practices and the consultant's industry experience and training.


A fundraising consultant who blends coaching, training, and consulting is effective and nimble in growing the organization's fundraising capacity because they can customize their approach to the nonprofit's needs.


12-Facilitator: The fundraising consultant may take on the role of a Facilitator and guide the nonprofit through a participatory and inclusive process to create leadership engagement and impact. As a facilitator, the consultant can help staff and the Board of Directors work together, define and understand organizational objectives, develop strategic goals, and create an action plan to achieve these goals.


Additionally, as a facilitator, the consultant can plan and facilitate experiences virtual and onsite experiences for leaders and donors, such as Board retreats, donor cultivation events, and other engagement programs.


Conclusion

Working with a fundraising consultant can take many forms. Your organizational goals and needs, case for support, and resources are equally important, as are your nonprofit's overall fundraising culture. Every fundraising consultant has a unique background, experience, and expertise. Their approach may be very similar, or differ in strategies and methodologies. They may embrace all the twelve plus roles of a fundraising consultant, or take on specific roles.


A mentor of mine keeps saying that no fundraising consultant knows all the answers. It is a humbling reminder of the special partnership that a charitable organization establishes with an external fundraising expert. It is about opportunities and possibilities - and realistic expectations for the engagement on both sides.


If you are curious about the roles that a fundraising consultant does not take on, you'll may find the blog post "When Fundraising Consultant's Superpowers 'Fail"" an interesting read.


Synergies in Philanthropy Consulting (Synergies) provides strategic and team-centered solutions to increase nonprofit innovation, revenue, and effectiveness in a changing and competitive 21st-century philanthropy and fundraising environment. Synergies specializes in major gifts | fundraising campaigns | donor engagement | transatlantic fundraising | virtual events and programs | facilitation | impact planning | board development | leadership training and coaching.

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