Tim Priebe

How to vet nonprofit marketing consultants

At T&S, we have worked with a lot of nonprofits. Probably because I’m known as a bleeding heart who really loves helping nonprofits, especially those who fall into the social services category.

In my experience working with nonprofit clients and serving on multiple nonprofit boards, I’ve heard plenty of stories of organizations who got duped by fast-talking marketing “experts” who over-promised and under-delivered.

Here are a few tips for vetting nonprofit marketing consultants. Not a nonprofit? These tips can still help.

Know where you need help

If you’re talking to marketing consultants, you’ve probably identified some need for some outside help. But have you gotten specific about the help you need? Saying, “We need some help with marketing” casts a pretty broad net. You might actually need help with an online marketing strategy, help with social media, or help with content creation.

Start with a short, but honest, assessment of what’s working well in your marketing and what’s not. Think about both your strategy and your tactics, as well as your organizational goals and how your marketing efforts are helping advance those goals.

Get specific about their experience

Now that you know what type of help you need, look for nonprofit marketing consultants who offer those specific services. Ask about their general experience in that area, but also ask for some specific examples of ways they’ve helped other clients with similar needs.

Whether or not they’ve previously worked with nonprofits may not matter for your specific need. But if it’s important to you, ask if they have nonprofit marketing experience. If they don’t have experience with nonprofits, ask what new ideas they think they bring to the table.

Check references

Ask for a couple of references and then call them to learn more about their experience with the marketing consultant. Here are a few questions you might want to ask:

  • In what specific ways did the consultant help you with marketing strategy or tactics?
  • Did you encounter any problems or challenges while working with him/her?
  • What was the most important thing your organization accomplished while working with him/her?
  • If given the chance to work with this consultant again, would you?

While there are certainly some bad apples out there in any realm of consulting, I believe most companies really do want the best for your organization. But it’s important to find the right fit by asking some key questions before you sign an agreement.

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