Whose Job Is It, Anyway?
It's quite interesting from a consulting perspective the wide array of decision-making processes in retaining counsel.
In larger organizations that have a budget for resources, including hiring advisors and consultants, hiring consultants is most often a staff decision. And it should be.
Ideally, the president or chief development office plans. Resources are in the budget, and it is a matter of following internal policies on procurement of services, such as multiple bids.
In situations where the organization has not planned for capacity-building needs, it may require board involvement in the allocation of new budget resources, but still the decision-making should be staff-driven.
Except for hiring an auditor who needs to report to the board for fiduciary reasons, the best nonprofit practice is to build a culture of excellence that includes budgeting for counsel and other services, such as marketing as needed and appropriate.
There is nothing wrong with including influencers, as well as decision makers, in a selection process. However, as you work to further define board roles and have your board focusing on governance and operating strategically, how you handle the selection of counsel and other advisors sends a powerful message.
Be very clear in delineating and reinforcing the role of the board and the role of staff. It is just like our role as consultants and adherence to best practices—when we don’t stand firm with a client on what is the best direction, we are not fulfilling our professional role nor are we advancing our profession or the best interest of the client.
Build a professional advancement program that includes the availability of counsel for special situations, including campaign studies, campaign counsel and strategic planning, where there are great benefits to leverage experience and insight, ensuring accountability and benefiting from an outside group facilitating or conducting research.
When appropriate, use outside resources as an opportunity for capacity building to gain from special expertise and for your organization to more fully embrace a culture of philanthropy. Know, too, that how you handle this process will have an impact on perceived board and staff roles.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.