Nonprofit Web Consulting Firms: 7 Tips to Find a Strategic Partner

Dec 18, 2017

If your organization wants to take its software, web presence, or online fundraising strategy to the next level, a nonprofit web consultant might be the first stop on the path to success.

Not only can a nonprofit web consultant guide your web development or software implementation plan, but they can also teach your team valuable skills that you can use for future endeavors.

The right consulting firm can be your organization’s key to unlocking your goals, but before you sign on any dotted lines, you have to know what you’re looking for in a consultant—and how to go out and find it!

To help you with just that, we’ve compiled our top 7 tips for finding the top Nonprofit consulting firm:

If you’re in search of a consultant, let these best practices lead you to the right fit.

And if you’re not looking for a consulting firm right now, put these tips in your back pocket for later! You never know when you’ll need a little extra help launching your new website, software, or online fundraising campaign.

Understand the purpose of a nonprofit strategic consultant.

1. Understand the purpose of a nonprofit web consultant.

Slightly different than a general fundraising consultant, a nonprofit web consultant can help nonprofits design and implement more strategic approaches to all things technology-related.

While each firm will have their own specific strengths and specialties, there are a few general uses for a nonprofit web consultant that differentiate them from other types of consultants, such as:

  • Website design and development. A nonprofit’s website is vital to building online supporter engagement. Your web consultant can help you design your website, integrate various pieces of software to power your site, and even help you manage your site over time within your content management system.
  • Software implementation and training. If you’re in need of a new software solution, a consulting firm can hold your hand through each step of implementation. Not only can they handle the technical aspects (such as customizations or integrations), but they can also ensure your team is fully trained and prepared to use your new tools.
  • Data cleanup and migration. Whether you’re transferring content from one CMS to another or preparing to migrate all of your donor records to a new CRM, data migration is a huge undertaking. A consultant can manage the entire process, from prepping your data to performing the migration safely and efficiently.

If your nonprofit is in search of more general counsel, you may be in the market for a fundraising consultant and not necessarily a web consultant. Though there can often be overlap in what types of services Nonprofit consulting firms offer, it’s always best to find a team with specialized experience in the areas you’re hoping to improve.

Looking for more general fundraising consulting services? Check out DonorSearch’s list of the top fundraising consulting firms to see if any of these teams can meet your needs.

Determine your nonprofit’s goals for obtaining a consulting firm.

2. Determine your nonprofit’s goals.

Now that you know what a consultant can do, it’s time to determine what they will do for your organization specifically.

To find out where a consultant fits in at your nonprofit, take some time to develop short- and long-term goals. These goals should be as actionable and specific as possible. Plus, they should directly relate to gaps in your current operations and strategies.

For example, you might seek to answer the following questions:

  • How could software improve our donor management and fundraising tactics?
  • How can we drive more online donations through website optimization?
  • Which areas of our daily operations could be more efficient?
  • Are there aspects of our software that we’re not utilizing because we don’t know how?
  • How are our current fundraising channels performing?
  • Are donors engaging with us online?

By establishing clear desired outcomes from the start, you’ll set your nonprofit up for better results with your consultant. After all, you can’t accomplish a goal if you don’t have one in the first place!

Search each Nonprofit Consulting Firm by specialty

3. Search by specialty.

As you launch your search for a consultant, you may be overwhelmed with the sheer amount of possibilities out there. Avoid that fate by narrowing your search field to just those firms with expertise in the areas that align with your goals.

This point is especially vital when it comes to nonprofit technology consultants since they’ll likely be working within your organization’s software solution(s).

There are more nonprofit software options on the market than we could ever count. As a result, there are consulting teams who are experts on some software and may have never touched another.

For instance, your consultant might be especially well-versed in any of the following:

  • Donor management software (such as CRMs).
  • Nonprofit marketing software (such as email marketing platforms).
  • Dedicated fundraising software (such as peer-to-peer fundraising tools).
  • Online or mobile giving platforms (such as text-to-give software).

And in addition to specializing in certain types of software, your consultant is probably more familiar with some vendors than others, too.

Make sure you’re only considering consultants who can speak your software’s language unless you’re prepared to make a big switch to a completely new software system.

For example, if you’re in need of a consultant to help you optimize your Luminate CRM usage, it might not be best to partner with a Blackbaud-friendly team that has never worked in Salesforce. They’ll understand parts of your technology, but they won’t be prepared to operate within the full scope of the platforms you’re using.

Reach out to your network of Nonprofit Organizations

4. Reach out to your network.

A fantastic way to parse out the all-stars in your consultant search results? Ask for a little help from your friends!

By that we mean, reach out to nonprofits in your network to see which consultants they’ve worked with and how their projects turned out.

Other nonprofits, particularly those of similar size or with comparable causes and campaign styles, can provide valuable insight into the consultant search by sharing real-world experiences.

Unlike the consultant themselves, your nonprofit peers will be unbiased in their recaps of the consultant’s services. Not only will they be able to share the highlights of working with the consulting team, but they can also help you identify any potential weaknesses that wouldn’t normally come up during the search or interview process.

To make sure you’re getting the most from your conversations with other charities, ask questions such as:

  • What were your goals for your partnership with this consultant? Did you achieve them?
  • How hands-on was your consultant? Did they provide as much support as you wanted?
  • What was your timeline for your project? Did you complete your goals within your set time frame?

The more information you’re able to get from peers, the more well-informed your own decision can be.

Check out your Nonprofit Consulting Firm candidates’ portfolios

5. Check out your candidates’ portfolios.

After you’ve narrowed your list to five or fewer candidates, you’ll need to begin communicating with the consultants to get a stronger idea of what they can do for your nonprofit.

To see a tangible picture of your potential consultant’s work, ask to see a sample! Most consultants will happily provide a portfolio or several case studies that showcase their most successful projects.

Obviously, consultants will frame these examples in the most positive light, so make sure you’re being objective by keeping these points in mind:

  • Relevance. If you’re looking for a data migration consultant, it won’t matter how stunned you are with their web design work. Keep your goals in mind as you assess your candidates’ portfolios to ensure they can deliver similar results for your project.
  • Scope. How extensive do you need your consultant’s work to be? Projects can vary greatly in terms of scope, so you’ll need to understand exactly how much a candidate is capable of taking on (and for what price).
  • Strategy. Case studies won’t just show you what problems a consultant solved; they’ll also show you how they solved them, which can be just as important! Ask your candidates what their strategy was for their past projects to see if their approach matches—and enhances—your own.

Having a hard time getting to this point in the process? Don’t worry. You can also reverse this approach by first identifying successful nonprofit projects and then working backwards to find the consultant who helped them accomplish their goals.

For example, if you’re looking for a website redesign, start researching top nonprofit sites to pinpoint which elements you’d like to emulate. Then, reach out to those organizations to see which web design firm they worked with.

Or, cut down on research by reading DNL OmniMedia’s Top Nonprofit Websites to Inspire Your Organization!

have a clear idea of what your goals are for hiring a Nonprofit Consulting Firm.

6. Outline your upcoming project.

You’ve selected your top choice for a consultant and are ready to turn your strategies into actions. As you’re preparing to finalize your decision, it’s time to take one last look at your upcoming project to guarantee your consultant can confidently step into their new role.

You should already have a clear idea of what your goals are. At this point, you’ll need to work with your potential consultant to establish how exactly you’ll see them through.

There are a few ways you can go about outlining your project, but we suggest starting with these strategies:

  • Ask your prospective consultant for a proposal. You’ve seen what they’ve done in the past; now, ask your consultant what they can do in the future. They should be able to outline tangible steps for your project during the final stages of the interview process.
  • Set a realistic timeline. Efficiency is key, so make sure you’re clear on how long your project will take. Ask your candidate what they believe is reasonable, but also consider your team’s schedule and other upcoming projects that might take priority.
  • Determine what software you’ll need. You’ll almost definitely need some form of technology during your project, so make sure your team and your consultant are clear on what tools you’ll use (or may need to purchase).

Once you’ve got your project laid out in front of you, you should have a crystal-clear idea of how your consultant fits in, which means you’re finally ready to sign the contract and bring them onto your team!

Know how the Nonprofit consulting services fit in long-term

7. Know how your consultant fits in long-term.

Once you’ve shaken hands and sealed the deal, it’s time to begin working with your new consultant to get your project underway.

Unlike some fundraising consultants, many nonprofit web consultants aren’t just around for one freestanding project or campaign. Because your consultant is helping you launch a software- or technology-related endeavor, they may stay on longer in order to help you maintain or manage your technology over time.

For example, your consultant might:

  • Act as a data administrator within your CRM or other software.
  • Help you manage or update content on your website.
  • Serve as a training resource for your software.
  • Provide technical support over time.

Ultimately, how hands-on you want your consultant to be is up to you, but you need to make sure these expectations are set from the very beginning of your relationship.

To have a consultant stay on longer-term may cost more than hiring someone to help with a one-off campaign, so you’ll need to consider the return on investment you’re receiving.

Think of it this way, though—when you bring a long-term consulting partner into your organization, you’re opening yourself up to a valuable relationship that will continue to provide expert help for any challenges you might face in the future!

A nonprofit consultant of any kind can offer the objective perspective you need to revitalize your strategies and refresh your dedication to the cause.

Now that you know what a nonprofit web consultant can do, it’s time to start your search! We can’t wait to see what your organization can accomplish with a team of experts on your side.

Carl Diesing