The Consultant’s Role in Your Campaign

Feb 22, 2021

Once your study is completed, you will need to decide whether a consultant is needed to help implement the campaign, and if so, exactly what role the consultant will play. These roles vary and typically include:

  • Resident counsel, in which the consultant will be at your organization daily for a specific period, usually months or perhaps years
  • Retainer, in which a consultant is retained for a specified number of days per month to provide general guidance for the campaign
  • Project-based consulting, in which a consultant is engaged to complete specific tasks, could include preparing the case for support, creating the campaign plan, writing grant proposals for the campaign, training volunteers, or other tasks related to the campaign

If you have already conducted a planning study, you will most likely have an idea of how you will utilize consulting services during the campaign. If not, you will need to talk to consultants about the types of services they can offer.

It’s important to understand what a consultant can and cannot do for you. Consultants do not raise the money for you. A consultant is like the coach on the football team, and volunteers are like the players; just as players run plays with the ball, volunteers will be making the ask with donors.

Most organizations hire a consultant when considering a campaign because they don’t have the time, expertise, or knowledge to run a campaign on their own. You need to understand what a consultant can and cannot do for you. If you think a consultant is the magic bullet you need to land those big gifts, that is not the case. It is not the consultant's job to raise money for you.

Think about how you would feel if a consultant you did not know came to you and asked for a gift. Wouldn’t you respond better to someone in your community whom you know and respect? Someone who is contributing at the same level at which you are being asked to contribute? Asking is the role of people inside the organization, preferably volunteers, rather than consultants.

Hiring a consultant is never a guarantee that your campaign will succeed. Sometimes organizations disregard basic rules of campaigning, regardless of their consultant’s input. And sometimes, an organization chooses a consultant who is just not the right match for the organization or who does not have enough campaign experience.

Many times, the objectivity, creativity, knowledge, and expertise a consultant can bring to the campaign can start your organization off on the right foot. If your budget is limited, you should hire a consultant early in the process to do your study and prepare a campaign plan. The consultant might be able to tell you how you can manage a campaign on your own or with limited consulting help, once a solid plan is in place. Often, with a good plan in hand and some training and coaching by a consultant, staff can step in and manage the campaign.

What a Consultant Can Do for You

Consultants provide a breadth and depth of experience in campaigning and often bring creativity, energy, and an objective viewpoint to your leadership, staff, and volunteers. A consultant can say things to board members, CEOs, and volunteers that sometimes a development officer cannot. The consultant helps keep everyone on track and hold staff and volunteers’ “feet to the fire.”

Most organizations include the campaign costs, such as consultant fees, in the overall campaign goal. However, if your organization has planned far enough in advance, you might be able to fund the campaign budget through your operating budget. This can be attractive to donors because the money raised in the campaign will go directly to the project.

To sum up, your leadership staff must play an important role in the campaign. You will most likely want to engage a consultant to help with the campaign and assist in educating your leadership staff.

To learn more about capital campaigns and the role of the consultant in your campaign, take my course, Capital Campaigns: Yes, You CAN Do It. Sign up here


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