Hiring a nonprofit consultant is like hiring movers. Once you’ve had the experience of high-quality, professional help, it is impossible to imagine how you ever did all that heavy-lifting on your own.
And yet, just like movers don’t unpack for you–or come back two weeks later to unload the dishwasher, there are some kinds of work your consultant can’t do for you.
Here are three big ones:
Build your Relationships
Successful nonprofits grow in size and influence by building and maintaining strong relationships with individuals and organizations. Your consultant can help you decide which relationships to pursue and which to release. She can even help you create the materials and systems you need to maintain and grow these community connections.
But she can’t execute the plan.
You have to send the e-mails, attend the lunch meetings and reply on Twitter. You have to make the phone calls, do the site visits, and write the thank you notes– because your organization’s relationships are strengthened as supporters move closer and closer to the heart of your organization. That heart is you.
Tell your story
Data doesn’t change behavior. Stories change behavior*– so the most effective way to build support for your organization is to tell the story about what your organization is doing and create easy ways for listeners to write themselves into it.
Your consultant can help you uncover your story. He can help you identify the people with whom that story is most likely to resonate. He can even help you craft your story to be as compelling as possible.
But he can’t tell it.
Stories come to life when the truth at their core shines through in the telling. It is that authenticity that makes people want to connect. Without the story and the committed teller, you might as well be reading out of the phone book.
Be the Decider
Your consultant wants what is best for your organization. She knows more about the available options and the potential implications of each choice than you do. You should certainly use her advice to inform your decision. But you can’t abdicate the choice to her.
No matter how long and how carefully you’ve worked together, your consultant doesn’t know everything there is to know about your work. She doesn’t have your intimate knowledge of your history and your people. Most importantly, she is not responsible for the outcome of the decision.
As a leader of your organization, you are ultimately responsible for the outcome of decisions made on behalf of the organization. Therefore, you can’t follow advice blindly. You must ask questions when you don’t understand– and refuse to make a final decision until your questions are fully answered.
What did I miss?
What other nonprofit leadership tasks can only be completed by an organization’s own leaders?
And on the flip side, what kind of work will you never do without the help of a consultant again?*The direct link seems to require a paid subscription. And yet, if you Google “Use Stories to Change Employee Behavior” and click on the first result, it comes right up.