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Don’t Select a Capital Campaign Consultant Without Reading These 4 Tips

By Clive Pedley posted 11-28-2022 13:39


When selecting a capital campaign consultant, there is no margin for error.


Capital campaigns are usually linked to big, audacious (and often public) goals. When successful, they herald in a historic moment that will have a profound impact on the organization and those it serves. 


Capital campaigns are also challenging. Even if your supporter network is ready, the capacity and capability within the leadership of the organization (yes, it’s definitely about more than just the fundraising team!) means you need to engage with experienced consultants who can successfully guide you to success.


How does an organization go about choosing a fundraising consultancy firm that suits their needs and circumstances? My team and I at Giving Architects have undertaken many capital campaigns in New Zealand and Australia. We’ve found that several critical factors need to be in place. These should be obvious to both the organization and consultant.


Here, we share our top four tips.


  1. Experience

You need experiences to have experience. Recent results are equally as important as length of time in market. 

Look beyond just a long list of past campaigns (although that’s obviously assuring and provides an opportunity to check outcomes with prior clients). Verify what has occurred recently in campaigns they have been involved in. Was there robust understanding at key milestones? Have they met goal? Stayed within budget?

Additionally, while there is certainly best practice in capital campaign methodology, there are also variances in approach that can be applied to different markets, settings, and situations.

For instance, if you’re a healthcare charity, selecting a consultant without a healthcare philanthropy track record may not be the best path forward. The right experience for your pending campaign is more important than a list that goes back a very long way. A lack of historical campaign achievements means more homework is required when working through the next tips.


  1. Referrals

After you’ve worked through an entire capital campaign with a consultant, you have a clear idea on how you feel about their capabilities and collaboration style. So will their previous clients.


Speak with these organizations to understand their experiences. Do they match up with your expectations and requirements?


  1. Fit

We often hear this word “fit” when hiring new team members. It’s not just about a brilliant CV and total funds raised.


The same applies when engaging with consultants. 


Capital campaigns are intensive. The consultant relationship is highly involved and personal. It involves trust when representing your organization while engaging with significant stakeholders. Having a good fit is critical. 


Our best tip is to spend some time together. Crucial to the selection process are board presentations, staff meetings, conversations with key volunteers, and collective comfort that the consultant appreciates your organization’s culture.


Don’t be driven purely by cost, total funds raised, or indicated timeframes. Also be sure about who will be directly involved in leading and working with your team throughout the campaign.


  1. Capacity and Capability

This is a two-way street.


Capital campaign consultancy can range from a plan with some advice along the way through to direct hands-on management from beginning to end. You need to be certain what is needed and being proposed are well served by the capacity and capability requirements of both the consultancy firm and your own organization. 


A crystal clear understanding of roles, responsibilities, schedule of work, and deliverables will be best informed by an initial assessment/feasibility study/preparation period. Have clarity on this crucial factor before signing on any dotted lines.

Capital campaigns involve a detailed sequential process with many moving parts. Any capital campaign consultancy relationship is built upon a committed partnership. You can be sure of bumps in the road, difficult challenges, and unexpected surprises (good, bad, and otherwise!).

Buy into the fact you are not appointing a “gun for hire” but are engaging in a rich, deep partnership with critical outcomes at stake that will change how you serve your purpose. 

An effective consultancy partnership requires your whole organization to be ready, or at least be prepared to adjust to become ready. A great consultancy relationship can make all the difference in the world to successfully traversing your capital campaign journey.