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How to choose a fundraising agency or a consultant

The champagne cork has popped and you have finally got approval for the project, now the real challenge starts: fundraising to make it happen.

Whether it’s a new science lab, renovating a church roof or indeed any other project, successfully fundraising is integral to the financing of most charity projects.

The key to successful fundraising is ensuring that you have a fundraising strategy that clearly outlines how funds will be raised from all available income streams. This may include individual giving, trusts and foundations, corporates, major donors, events, alumni (if relevant) and congregation if the project is for a church.

Unless you have a person within your organisation who has extensive experience and has the time to dedicate to fundraising, then it would be best to work with a consultant or a fundraising agency. They will have the time and experience to dedicate to your fundraising and will work closely with you to ensure that you reach your target.

Sam Watson who set up Orchard Fundraising, a fundraising agency says:

“I think working with an agency is particularly suitable for medium and long-term projects and practical delivery of fundraising activities.
An agency is flexible and can reduce or boost its support when needed, provide an income stream expert at crucial times and offers a wider strategic perspective to clients.
A single consultant may be well placed to advise on strategic direction, but Orchard Fundraising has Associates that are strategy experts with the added advantage of then being able to move to practical delivery, maintaining continuity for staff, volunteers, funders and beneficiaries.”

Are two heads always better than one?

There are fundraising agencies, and also independent fundraising consultants, usually working on their own, both of whom support charities with fundraising.

How do you know what would be right for your campaign?

What do you need to think about when choosing a fundraising agency or consultant?

Below are some pros and cons for using a fundraising agency or a fundraising consultant, it’s not an exhaustive list, but guidance on points to consider.

The choice is yours

There is no right or wrong choice when it comes to deciding whether to work with a fundraising agency or independent fundraising consultant, as there are pros and cons for both, but below are some general points to consider.

Style of working – do you prefer having one point of contact rather than dealing with several people? If you prefer one point of contact, then a fundraising consultant might suit you or find an agency, like Orchard Fundraising, that provides a client liaison manager.

Experience – if your campaign contains several elements of fundraising and you need people who are experienced in a range of income streams, then a fundraising agency might better meet your needs, as they will have individuals with a wider range of skills and knowledge.

Selection process – the old adage ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’, is often true. However, when choosing a fundraising agency or consultant, going through a selection process could be helpful, particularly for big projects for the following reasons.

Pitch process – consultants or agencies come and present to you on how they would fundraise for your campaign. This will expose you to a wider range of ideas and approaches.

Personalities – a pitch process will enable the organisation to meet the consultant or fundraising agency face to face and get a feel of how they would work together.

Transparency – a selection process will demonstrate fairness, integrity, and show that an agency/consultant has been chosen based on their abilities and experience.

Whole organisation involvement – a pitch process will enable key individuals in the organisation to listen to the presentations and feel that they have had a voice in selecting the fundraising agency or consultant. This will also increase their understanding of fundraising and their engagement in the project.

Governance – An in-depth knowledge of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and understanding of the rules on the use of personal data, charity law and regulation is essential for any campaign. Check that the consultant or fundraising agency has a good understanding of this and if they are members of the Fundraising Regulator and Institute of Fundraising.

Administration – there will be a significant amount of administration. Keeping excellent records, details of applications made, individuals contacted etc is important. A fundraising agency or consultant should have and be able to demonstrate that they have good administrative skills.

A final note

Choosing the right consultant or fundraising agency can be the difference between achieving or not achieving your fundraising target, and completing your project.

Make sure you consider this carefully, and good luck.

Sam says:

Fundraising activities can be a significant cost for smaller organisations, that can be daunting.

Trustees and management should view it as an investment, so an open and honest conversation about the likely success of fundraising initiatives, when results might be seen and what sort of return on investment to expect is a must.”

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