Organizational Effectiveness grants primarily cover the cost of outside consultants who provide outside expertise and build capacity in an organization or network for the future. After decades of capacity building grantmaking, we have learned from our grantees that finding the right consultant is critical to the success of any capacity-building project.
So how do you find the right consultant? There are many options, some of which are listed here. One common method is simply reaching out to your network – other nonprofits, local foundations, or even friends and family. This approach has natural advantages, since getting a recommendation from a trusted colleague is invaluable. However, this method also has the potential to leave out a whole world of great consultants with the right expertise for your project, including those who may come with new perspectives.
With this in mind, the OE team has partnered with the Foundation Center to explore the viability of an online capacity-building consultant database. As a first step, the project took a look at what is available already. It turns out that consultant databases are fairly common — our Foundation Center partners identified nearly 60 of them. Most are focused on a specific geography or type of consulting assistance (such as fundraising) and a handful provide references and descriptions of previous projects from nonprofits. Some have requirements for being listed as a consultant, and others are open to anyone who would like to list their qualifications.
The databases that the Foundation Center found can be accessed through this resource– a spreadsheet listing what the Foundation Center found in their initial search, which we are pleased to make available here on the Knowledge Center. The spreadsheet includes the name of the database, a brief description, the type of consultants represented, the number of consultants represented, the type of capacity building services offered, the region served, and unique functionalities.
Based on the results of our project with the Foundation Center, we are still determining how the Packard Foundation can be most helpful in creating a resource that will be useful and used by both nonprofits and consultants. But, in the meantime, we hope this list may be helpful to others when considering options for building your organization’s or network’s capacity with a consultant.
If you know of additional consultant-finding resources to add to the list, please let us know in the comments below. We would also love to hear from nonprofits about how you go about finding the right consultant for your capacity-building needs. Or if you are a capacity-building consultant, how do you go about getting connected to the organizations in need of your services? If you are a funder, what do you do to connect nonprofits to the best consulting resources?
Many thanks to Reina Mukai, Aaron Schill, and Angie Koo at the Foundation Center for their good work on this project!