How to Be a Good Client for Your Professional Fundraiser

I know … I’ve been there … when you hire a professional fundraiser, your most prevalent thought has more to do with the skills, abilities and behavior of the professional fundraiser rather than how you can be a good client. But even the best professional fundraisers shine more brightly when they have good clients with whom to work. Also, the better client you are, the less likely it is that you will waste money.

So, here are some thoughts on how to be a good client.

Define what you’re looking for in writing. Whether it’s a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) or simply a one-page outline, writing down what you want to accomplish will help you communicate clearly and succinctly and stimulate discussion on what is realistic and what isn’t.

Be sure you have the authority. Get approvals from your management to hire a professional fundraiser. Understand the expectations they have (put it in writing). Make sure the people with the decision authority are in all meetings, unless they give that authority to you. And if they do, be decisive. Also beware that having too many decision makers can destroy a project.

Put it in writing. Contracts protect both you and the professional fundraiser. The contract can be as informal as an email, but it needs to communicate specifically what you are paying for along with the remuneration and time frame. Include what you will deliver to the professional fundraiser, along with what the fundraiser is expected to provide. Terms of payment are important, and so is an arbitration agreement and an “out clause,” which gives both of you a way to end the contract amicably should things not work out.

Give room for creativity. The vision you have in your head may not be what will best accomplish your goals, even if it worked well for a friend. When you consider your professional fundraiser a partner, and clearly communicate your goals and vision, you might be surprised how differently your vision gets expressed by someone who is trained to think in marketing terms.

Be responsive. If you’re going to achieve your goals within your budget and time frame, you’ll need to return calls, answer emails, provide the resources you agreed to provide, line up internal decision makers for approvals and do what’s necessary to avoid delays, scope creep and budget overages.

Promote trust. This is a partnership, and you need to be transparent and respectful.

This isn’t the whole list, of course, but following these guidelines will move you toward a successful outcome in any project with a professional fundraiser.

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