Many larger nonprofits have a ready supply of experts and specialists, but even the biggest organization might need to bring in outside help from time to time. And for newer organizations, outside expertise could be critical in getting off to a good start.
In such a case, the quest is to find the best possible person for the job.
In her book “Mission Control, How Nonprofits and Governments Can Focus, Achieve More, and Change the World,” Liana Downey presents a list of questions about what to look for in an advisor or facilitator:
* Does the person have experience? It does not have to be in the organization’s exact field, but it should be in running strategic planning processes.
* Does the person ask good questions? Look for intelligent, thoughtful questions that generate insight or signal a real interest.
* Does the person “get you”? Does the prospective consultant recognize the unique things about the team or organization?
* Does the person speak in clear language? Be deeply suspicious of jargon.
* Will the person plan with you or for you? Any consultant who says “We’ll draft a plan for your review” is not doing the organization any favors.
* Do previous clients speak highly of the person? Does the person have longstanding relationships with clients? It can be hard to know if a strategy is sound until it is implemented, so it might take time to see how effective an advisor or facilitator really is.