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When Does the Board Authorize the Use of a Consultant?

There will come a season in the life of every non-profit ministry when staff and volunteers do not have the time or expertise to solve a problem or issue. Choosing a consultant that specializes in providing solutions could be the answer, but choosing one may not be an easy task. In addition, the executive director may or may not have had positive experiences with consultants and cost can be a concern.

The Role of the Board
The role of the board is to keep the flame of the mission statement burning brightly. This is accomplished through leadership decision making, proper oversight, policies, and hiring the right Executive Director are key. Choosing a consultant is one of those key decisions.

Board's Today – Time and Talent
Because today's boards are made up of busy people, it can be difficult to find members who can give the gifts of time, talent, and treasure. Part of talent is in knowing when they can accomplish or if they need intervention from a specialist.

Most boards do not have everything they need, especially in small or start up ministries. They can devote time, but may not have the expertise to begin a development program, or lead a board retreat.

The Role of the Consultant
The consultant has hopefully experienced success in their field. It can be very discouraging for full time, professional consultants to hear stories of someone who tried their hand at consulting only to find they did not have the skill set. The consultant must be ready to be a leader, listener, problem solver, counselor, an analyst, expert, and above all, a teacher.

This is especially true in the small nature of many CPC's. Their needs may be in a number of areas and require a consultant that can look at the big picture when giving counsel.

Areas of ROI

Some key times in the life to the ministry when a consultant may be needed are:

Start Up. A new ministry can make more effective use of resources if a voice of experience guides them. Board structure, fundraising, management issues can all have a faster learning curve by using a consultant.

An opportunity to grow to the next level. When a ministry is at a key time in its growth, there is a need to go to the next level. This may involve many key decisions in which staff and board may not have had experience. A consultant can be an effective investment to assist in this process.

A great problem or crisis is before the ministry. This is the usual time that a consultant is called in. It could be a financial crisis or a leadership issue. Consultants can be a voice of reason, experience and expertise when facing difficult issues.

Lack of staff or expertise. At times you need assistance in an area outside of any staff or board expertise. This is also a time to use counsel. It is important to know the distinction between a consultant and a contract worker. If you use someone to actually do the work, they are a contract worker. As opposed to a consultant who guides staff and volunteers to carry out the task. By hiring a consultant in a short-term situation, you can avoid a long-term staff hiring.

The Decision-Making Process
Of course, proposals and interviews are the first steps to finding the right consultant. This usually involves the executive director and the board. This decision should be shared and accepting of constructive dissent. But once the decision is made, all must be supportive. A consultant cannot be successful if some board members or staff is sabotaging the efforts.

Leadership Decisions are Not Easy
Someone once asked a group of leaders, open your Bible to where God gives a leader an easy task. As you guessed, it never happens. Each of the issues listed above requires wisdom and good decision-making. Bringing in a consultant is expensive and with high expectations. This is why a board presents a balance in leadership.

Find a Partner, Not a Vendor
The final point is the most important. The most effective consultant will pray with you, challenge you, and support you as you seek to solve the problems or goals you are trying to reach. They should be a member of your team, not a vendor that is just there for the money. And it is important that board members from the business world understand this. If they feel or treat the consultant as just a vendor, the relationship will not be as productive.

Concluding Remarks
I feel a great calling to the ministry of consulting. I am been a part of a number of wonderful ministries filled with great people. When you find the right consultant, a fruitful relationship will produce the needed results and create a team that can make a difference in Kingdom work.

John R. Frank is the president of Consulting Group, Inc. and is the publisher of the Boardwise Newsletter. Visit his web site at


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