Finding the right consultant for a nonprofit had been mostly through word of mouth, until recently. The Austin Social Sector Consultant Collaborative has created a print directory to help nonprofits.
Donors sometimes wince at the thought that their dollars are paying for “overhead,” especially when it comes to staff salaries, but the people nonprofits need to accomplish their work are a cost of business that must be included in the budget.
Nonprofit consultants can fill in the gaps in expertise and staffing, and can be more cost-effective than hiring a full-time staff person, but finding the right one for the job had been mostly through word of mouth, until recently.
Last month, the relatively new and loosely organized Austin Social Sector Consultant Collaborative created a print directory to help nonprofits — and the people who fund them — find the right consultant for the job. Divided into categories such as grant writing, development, strategic planning and marketing, the directory sorts the consultants into specialties to make it easier to choose. They also started a group on the professional networking site LinkedIn that they were surprised to realize has 92 members.
GivingCity Austin created an online directory to accompany the print directory created by the ed Austin Social Sector Consultant Collaborative. Click here to browse the Directory of Nonprofit and Social Sector Consultants.
Nichols and Corcoran began meeting regularly two years ago to share ideas and talk shop, and realized that by expanding their group, they also could expand their knowledge and client base.
“You would think that we’re competing against each other,” said Nichols, “but the reality is that the work is very segmented.” Each consultant or agency has a specialty, she added, and often refer one another for a job they may not be suited for.
Consultants often come from years of experience as nonprofit staff themselves, such as Michel Hudson of 501(c)onsulting. While the flexibility and changing nature of consulting work can be a benefit, running a consultancy can be isolating. In the meetings, they can connect. “Sometimes it’s just good to know you’re not the only one dealing with something,” said Hudson.
“Part of this is just the evolution of the gig economy,” said Corcoran, one of the founders. Nonprofits can take advantage of industry experts who don’t necessarily want to work full-time, she said. “From the client’s point of view, that means having the expertise you need at the amount you can afford.”
Stacy Ehrlich of Seeds for Change Consulting says the meetings benefit the social sector by raising the level of professional knowledge among its members. As the Austin area has more nonprofits per capita than any other major metropolitan statistical area in Texas, according to the most recent assessment of data by Mission Capital in 2013, there are a number of nonprofits of all sizes that can benefit from consultants and experts “with amazing experience and expertise,” she said.
Corcoran added that by forming a network of consultants, they can serve more nonprofits through referral and collaboration.
“I have 12 clients at any given time, and I’m full,” she said. “It’s a factor of how much growth there’s been in the community. How would you know about all these experts unless you got together a group like this?”