It always pays to learn more about the new ways to fundraise, manage your nonprofit, and steward its resources.
Hiring a capital campaign consultant is the perfect example. These are major campaigns that take several years to conduct and come with all kinds of potential pitfalls, so seeking professional help is the norm. But exactly what role can (and should) a consultant play in your capital campaign?
The traditional capital campaign consulting model has been in place for decades and has served organizations well in the past. However, in recent years, this model has begun being seen as increasingly outdated and is being replaced by some newer, more flexible, and more cost-effective models.
The Traditional Capital Campaign Consulting Model
First, let’s take a look at what traditional campaign consulting looks like.
Since capital campaigns are such large projects, they consist of several key phases, each with its own specific purpose and objectives. These include the planning phase, a feasibility study to test the initial plans, a quiet phase to secure the largest gifts from major donors, a kickoff phase to announce the campaign to the community, and a public phase to secure smaller donations and reach the final goal.
This structure means that nonprofits have historically had two options for hiring a campaign consultant—they might hire a consultant to handle one specific aspect or phase of the campaign, or they might hire a consultant to oversee the entire strategy and execution from start to finish.
For the piece-by-piece approach, the consultant might develop a campaign strategy, conduct a feasibility study or prospect research, solicit donors, or plan a kickoff marketing blitz, for example. The all-in-one approach is more intensive but gives a more coherent throughline to the campaign as the consultant has the chance to get intimately familiar with everything going on.
In both cases, this approach is fairly hands-off for your nonprofit. The consultant is in charge of planning and enacting the strategy, whether it’s for one part or the whole campaign. Your team plays a supporting role to execute the strategy.
The Challenges this Approach Creates
So what are the challenges presented by this hands-off approach to campaign consulting?
- Lack of Agility: The traditional consulting model typically involves a rigid structure based on pre-arranged on-site meetings. The campaign is planned, in part, around the consultant’s schedule, which was determined well in advance. This approach does not provide the agility needed to make decisions quickly.
- High Cost: The traditional consulting model can be expensive, with high hourly rates and long-term contracts that can stretch on for years. And when a consultant travels to get to clients, travel time and expenses mount up. This can make it difficult for smaller businesses or nonprofits to afford consulting services.
- Focus on Deliverables: The traditional consulting model often emphasizes specific deliverables, such as reports or presentations, rather than ongoing support and guidance. This can lead to a situation where consultants focus more on reports or presentations and less on ongoing support. This approach is not ideal for a capital campaign, which is a major long-term learning opportunity for your nonprofit. The board may be happy with the reports, but the staff is not fully supported.
- Inflexibility: Finally, the traditional consulting model can be inflexible and slow to adapt to changing client needs or market conditions. This can be particularly problematic in today’s rapidly changing economic environment, where agility and adaptability are critical to success.
Bottomline: The traditional consulting model no longer works as well as it once did or serve the needs of nonprofits that have limited budgets or prefer to work flexibly to maximize results.
Organizations need consulting services that are more agile, cost-effective, and focused on ongoing support and guidance. Campaign services must be flexible and able to adapt quickly to changing client needs and market conditions to be truly effective today.
New Consulting Models—Better Results for Capital Campaigns
Consulting models have evolved in recent years, adapting to changing needs and technological advancements. New consulting models are emerging as organizations seek more flexible and cost-effective ways to access information, expert advice, and services.
Let’s look at some of the new and more effective approaches.
On-demand consulting allows organizations to access expert advice and services on an as-needed basis. Organizations can engage consultants for short-term projects, without committing to long-term contracts or retainers.
On-demand consulting is ideal for organizations that require specialized skills or expertise for specific projects or initiatives, such as helping plan the campaign, providing fundraising training, or supporting the feasibility study. This model is cost-effective and provides organizations with the flexibility to scale up or down as needed over the course of the campaign.
Subscription-based consulting is like on-demand consulting, but instead of paying for services on a project-by-project basis, organizations pay a monthly or annual fee for access to a broader range of consulting and coaching services.
Subscription-based consulting is a cost-effective way for organizations to access expert advice and services without committing to long-term contracts or retainers. This model is ideal for organizations that require a consultant for long-term campaign guidance and strategy execution.
Virtual consulting involves leveraging technology to deliver consulting services more efficiently. This notably enables consultants to work remotely, which can lead to cost savings and greater flexibility.
With a virtual approach, consultants use digital tools and platforms to communicate with clients, provide peer learning opportunities, and provide access to online campaign material. This may involve incorporating the nonprofit into an online community of other organizations that are also conducting capital campaigns so that they can share insights and experiences.
If your organization is planning a capital campaign and considering your options for getting
expert advising, you should consider these new consulting models, all of which are gaining popularity.
Free Capital Campaign Strategy Session
Schedule a complimentary 45-minute strategy session to discuss your campaign with one of our veteran campaign advisors. We’re happy to help get your campaign started on the right foot. Apply for your free strategy session today!
Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, and Andrea Kihlstedt are co-founders of Capital Campaign Pro, a virtual support system for nonprofit leaders running successful campaigns. Their process provides all the tools, templates, and guidance you need — without breaking the bank.