Thinking About Flying Solo as a Nonprofit Consultant?
I have been a daily practitioner for four universities and a large healthcare institution. At the latter, where I directed capital campaigns that retained other consultants, one of the consultants continually encouraged me to take the leap to the consultant profession. I joined a firm and engaged in a $37 million endowment campaign for Kiwanis International.
I had mentors that allowed me to gain highly valued experience by collaborating with a team of other consultants, as well as those with their own solo consulting firms. That experience gained allowed me to establish my own solo consulting firm 12 years ago.
I wanted to experience fundraising on both sides of the fence, from hiring consultants to being hired as a consultant. I felt my years of experience in every facet of fundraising could be shared with others. Even as I continued to work my day job at a nonprofit, my consulting work could always be a fallback option.
Over time, I knew what areas of my experience I loved to share, like board development, strategic planning, management of staffs and capital campaigns. Consulting came easy to me.
If you are interested in flying solo in a consulting career path, you need to understand how you can help nonprofit organizations. Consultants’ experience in the nonprofit sector can assist nonprofits in many areas such as managing capital campaigns, doing prospect research, developing donor relationship plans, conducting feasibility studies, grant writing and more. When an organization is considering hiring a consultant, it will assess the consultant’s prior success and experience in working with diverse nonprofits of all sizes, ages and desired outcomes.
Working as an independent consultant can have advantages. You can set your own schedule and priorities, determine what clients you desire to engage, and develop an array of new skills. As a consultant, you are the product. Before you launch your solo endeavor, make sure you have the experience and credentials. You will need to determine how to develop effective contracts with clients and create your own fee system. Note that you will begin as a generalist but learn to specialize services. Then you can develop an operational plan that includes marketing and advertising.
New consultants may not understand what a good nonprofit consultant will charge. Fee rates vary depending on experience, type of consulting services offered and type of arrangement engaged. The average consultant fee ranges from $85 to $152 per hour. Well-known consultants may charge $300 per hour and new solo consultants could charge $50 per hour.
Average nonprofit consulting fees by project range from $1,500 to $5,000, depending on the complexity of the project. The average retainer rate varies between $2,500 and $5,000 per month. Note that pay depends on factors such as size of the project, complexity of project, location of the project, nonprofit’s budget, and nonprofit’s ability to pay.
Fundraising consultants offer a variety of services. Their objective is to have nonprofits reach stated financial goals. In this relationship, confidentiality rules. Consultants are expected to bring fresh perspectives and ideas to the table. There is an element of trust between parties. Solo consultants may team with other consultants, depending on the project.
If you are thinking about flying solo as a nonprofit consultant, do your homework, talk to other solo consultants, and weigh the pros and cons of this endeavor. I have enjoyed this experience and you could too!
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy. He has maintained a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation for three decades.