By Brad Ball
Big Buzz Idea Group
As an association management company and nonprofit consultant, we’ve written extensively about the benefits of outsourcing for your organization.
Outsourcing can help you navigate a tight job market or hiring market, ensuring that tasks are performed by competent professionals and the office is running efficiently throughout the hiring process. It can cost less than hiring new staff, is more reliable than counting on volunteers, and can even allow you to bring in an expert with a specific skillset you need for a limited time.
With more and more complex tasks and responsibilities on their plates, nonprofit leaders/directors now rely on consultants and outsourcing more than ever. If you’ve never hired a consultant before, the task can seem overwhelming, and you may not know where to start. This article will put you on a path to hiring your first consultant*.
*For the purposes of this article, “consultant” refers to any individual or company that would serve in an outsourced work role. They are NOT employees of your organization. This could include freelancers, consultants, association management companies, etc.
What Help Do You Need?
Brainstorm and write down a list of the help you need. Be as specific as possible about all the tasks and responsibilities that are draining your resources, plus those that aren’t a top priority but need attention, and those that have been neglected or fallen by the wayside.
You’re going to use this list to let potential consultants know who should apply to work with you. You may also choose to use this list to develop an RFP or Request for Proposal.
Determine Your Budget
You need to establish a timeframe and how much money you can spend to accomplish the work you need done.
There are two schools of thought on whether to publish this amount as part of your consultant search:
- Publishing the budget helps keep away consultants that cannot work at your price point.
- Not publishing the amount allows consultants to compete on price as well as scope of services and quality of work.
There are pros and cons to doing it each way and which option you select will be up to you.
Let The World Know
Consultants are waiting to hear from you so let them know you need help.
There are many ways to get the word out that you need help, including both outbound (where you contact people and companies to inquire about services) and inbound methods (where people see a work listing or RFP and contact you). Here are some examples of each:
- Search the web for companies or services that may fit what you need. Review their websites and if they look like a possible fit, make a call or send an email.
- Ask your network for referrals. Get names and numbers from your contact list and reach out to their suggested resources.
- Post on your personal and company LinkedIn pages.
- Post on your organization’s website.
- Send to organizations that reach nonprofit consultants like Association of Fundraising Professionals, Association of Philanthropic Counsel or The Association of Consultants to Nonprofits.
- Post to a job website like Indeed and ZipRecruiter (make sure to list the jobs as Contract under “Work Type”).
- If you need limited or specific help with a single service like accounting or social media management, be sure to check freelancer sites like Fiverr and UpWork.
For inbound marketing efforts especially, you’ll likely have to manage inquiries about the work.
Consultants will want to know as much as possible about the work you’re trying to hire for before submitting a proposal or deciding it’s not for them.
Some consultants or companies won’t even issue a proposal until they’ve had a chance to speak with you to learn more about your organization, your needs and your goals.
This will take time. Patience and diligence will pay off in the long run here but be judicious with your time.
You’ll have to strike a balance between your already overloaded work schedule and connecting with prospective vendors that are just kicking the tires versus those that are serious potential partners.
Receive and Evaluate Proposals
Read proposals closely for work experience related to your needs. Contact any references that were submitted to learn more about other organization’s experiences with your prospects.
And, of course, make sure that their quotes are on budget.
Pick your top three to five submittals for follow-up meetings or phone calls.
The follow-up meetings and calls will make all the difference in determining the partnerships. This will be your opportunity to ask questions, tell them more about your needs and learn about their experience.
After these interviews, it’s time to select your top candidate and request a contract for services.
Many people get confused between proposals and contracts. They are not the same.
At this point, you’ve reviewed proposals. But nearly all consultants will have some type of formal contract to sign. Some things you can expect it to include are:
- Service dates
- Service fees and payment structure
- Scope of work
- How to terminate the partnership
- Breach of contract consequences
- Liability limitations
- Contact information for each party
- Signature lines
Read this document thoroughly and make sure you understand every line. If you have an attorney, pass it on to them for review as well.
If there’s something you don’t like or want to change, just ask.
Remember: It is much better to settle questions about the contract before you sign it rather than after.
Sign the Contract
Once you’ve negotiated with your consultant and both agree to the terms laid out, it’s time to seal the deal.
Get to Work
Congratulations! You’ve just hired your first consultant to do the work you don’t have time to do.
Outsourcing work for your association or nonprofit organization doesn’t have to be a challenge. Since the process is similar to hiring a new employee, it will take a dedicated effort, but the payoff can result in massive efficiencies and increased effectiveness of both your personal work and the organization’s work towards mission success.