Why Hire a Consultant?

Consultants can be extremely helpful to your organization as it moves along the path toward greater inclusiveness by helping you plan, manage, and implement your inclusiveness initiative. They can:
  • Provide you with the wisdom that comes from their past experiences and help you avoid some mistakes.
  • Offer valuable external perspectives that may help you when you feel that you aren't making as much progress as you would like. An outside party often supplies a perspective on an organization's dynamics that can be difficult to see or understand from the inside.

  • Help negotiate differences of opinion between members of the board of directors and the staff and/or volunteers regarding directions the initiative could take.

  • Help bring out the voices of people with less authority within the organization. These individuals may have valuable opinions that are not easily heard by the senior management and/or members of the board of directors.

There also are cautions in using consultants:

  • One mistake that organizations often make is that they expect consultants to lead and own the process of the organization's journey to inclusiveness. If an organization's internal stakeholders do not feel responsible for ensuring the success of the inclusiveness initiative, the outcome of the initiative can be seriously jeopardized.
  • In addition, consultants must be flexible and respond to the individual needs of different organizations. If you hire a consultant who is not adaptable and does not understand your organization, you can waste valuable time, energy, and money following their agenda instead of the agenda that is right for your organization.
Role of a Consultant
The consultant's primary role is to assist your organization with certain areas of your inclusiveness work. While the consultant may act as an educator, a catalyst for deeper change, a resource, or a facilitator, the leadership of the process remains within your organization. The Inclusiveness Committee, staff, board members, and executive director have the power, and the greater responsibility, to lead the process of becoming more inclusive.

There are generally four categories of work for which you may want to hire the services of a consultant or a consulting team: 

1. Overall Guidance: The consultant works with the Inclusiveness Committee throughout the inclusiveness initiative to plan and execute the initiative and acts as a meeting or process facilitator.

2. Information Gathering: The consultant designs and gathers data during the information-gathering phase. Consultants can be particularly useful in collecting qualitative data through interviews and focus groups, since their neutral position with the organization can lead to more honest responses from internal and external stakeholders.

3. Cultural Competency/Diversity Training: The consultant conducts diversity/inclusiveness trainings to create a more inclusive culture and help stakeholders become more aware of how the organization may be creating an unwelcome atmosphere for diverse communities. In this instance, you may want to use one consultant or a consulting team for all of the trainings or you may wish to bring in content specialists for different trainings and use an "integrating facilitator."  An integrating facilitator works with you throughout your process, helping to provide continuity between trainings.

4. Evaluation: The consultant creates an evaluation plan to measure the efficacy of trainings and progress of your inclusiveness initiative.

Upon reviewing proposals made in response to your Request for Proposals (RFP), and negotiating with the consultant you select, you may need to adjust the role you have defined for your consultant.

The role that your consultant plays can be a combination of the above, or just one - it depends on your organization's needs and the consultant that you select. Consultants may be brought in for day-long sessions, for multiple trainings, or to assist you with particular topics. The time you spend with your consultant - if you hire one - and the work the consultant does, depend upon your organization's specific needs and budget.

Complete Determining Whether or Not to Hire a Consultant.

  • If you decide to hire a consultant or consulting team, continue below.
  • If you decide not to hire a consultant, skip the rest of this topic.
Qualifications of a Consultant
The qualities, qualifications, and experiences your organization will need in a consultant might include strong communication skills, extensive experience with the nonprofit sector, and a thorough knowledge of specific communities of color that live and work in your operating area. Selecting a consultant requires finding the right fit with your organization's particular needs, style, and goals. A consultant who works very well with one organization might not have the right style or resources to work as well with another organization.

Consider both quantitative and qualitative outcomes that you would like to have from your work with your consultant. What will a successful relationship with a consultant look like for your organization?  What specific tasks need to be completed? What results do you expect to see? What words would you use to describe the nature of an ideal working relationship with a consultant? Having a discussion with your Inclusiveness Committee about these areas will help you define the qualities and qualifications your organization needs in a consultant.

Complete Identifying the Roles and Qualifications of a Consultant.