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Recently, I received a phone call from an executive director running a nonprofit organization inquiring about the possibility of enlisting our services. I asked a few pointed questions to assess the organization’s readiness for a consultant. The executive director answered my questions in a way that indicated the organization has done its preliminary “homework.” At the end of our conversation, I told him “I guarantee we won’t hurt your chances at success, we’ll only help your organization become more competitive and function more efficiently.” The executive director’s response was: “That’s exactly why we need to enlist your company’s services. We need to go to the `next level.’”
I’m asked often why organizations should enlist consultants. In the instance described above, I answered the executive director’s question without a canned response. It was the most basic, simple answer I could provide to him. It’s about taking the organization to the next level in a way it cannot achieve on its own. The “next level” is a relative term that can be defined in many ways depending on who you ask and the nature of the organization. Regardless of how it is defined, an effective consultant should be an asset to an organization’s potential growth. This growth may not be evident initially. This growth may not be quantifiable initially.
A consultant should always strive to leave an organization better off for having utilized its services. A consultant adds value by bringing a fresh, objective perspective that can help an organization re-think and/or tweak its approach, improve what’s already working, and shed light about why certain activities and processes aren’t as effective. There is an array of long-term outcomes that certainly provide a good sense of whether an organization has benefitted from enlisting a consultant. Such examples include, but are not limited to:
1. A more active and engaged board of directors;
2. Improved data collection and tracking processes;
3. A well thought out action plan with activities and timelines that are practical and aligned with your mission; and
4. An improved “batting average” in receiving grants compared to the number of submitted requests.
At NEX-Impact, we insist on not imposing any desired outcomes on our clients. If the client doesn’t want it, we don’t pursue it. The client may not necessarily always be right, but there’s no need in imposing project outcomes when a client does not genuinely believe in those outcomes. Months of work will be thrown out the window and will result in a waste of everyone’s time … and most importantly YOUR money. Bottom line: the client’s needs should always be a priority. Whether you enlist NEX-Impact’s services or choose another consulting group, keep this advice in mind and your due diligence process will be that much smoother in finding the right fit for your organization.
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