One of the more common, humorous digs at consulting is that consultants ask you for your watch, and then tell you what time it is. Admittedly, this sort of thing happens too often. As a lifelong consultant and advocate for advancement services, I work hard to overcome this stereotype. In my experience, the best ways to make clients realize your value have to do with frankness, transparency, mastery of the subject matter, and–more than anything–objectivity.
The Objectivity Impact
When your vocation is helping nonprofits optimize their fundraising operations and technology, objectivity is essential. Why?
- Objectivity is the best way to ensure delivery of effective, complete fundraising counsel.
- Objectivity supports trusting relationships.
- Objectivity supports comprehensive solutions.
- Objectivity requires listening to clients first and solving their challenges within the parameters of their situation (which I sometimes refer to “Practices that are Best”).
Once a fundraising operations and technology firm yields its objectivity, choices shrink, solutions for clients become potentially self-serving, and clients may not be getting the best advice or services.
The Danger of Formal Partnerships
I have seen firsthand when formal partnerships with vendors or others diminish a firm’s credibility. Re-imagine that “watch” joke about consulting: the partnered/restricted consultant now may only know how to read a Timex, blinding them to the Rolex, Omega, or Apple Watch that would be better for your organization. And, of course, there’s the possibility that you need not wear a watch at all!
In these cases, business process re-engineering winds up worse than where it started when companies do not have enough understanding of alternatives. Imagine the restricted firm jamming a square peg into a round hole. And in some ways, formal partnerships too often mean the restricted firm is essentially an appendage of the company granting the partnership.
Nearly four years ago, Zuri Group ended our CRM partnerships and became one of the few non-profit consulting organizations without vendor allegiances.
As Zuri Group has grown and expanded into new markets–major universities, leading healthcare organizations, and major cause/cure/membership nonprofits–more and more vendors have sought formal, exclusive partnerships with us. On occasion, I have seen solution that’s so effective, I’m tempted to consider such a relationship. However, I always return to the core value proposition of objectivity and the full array of solutions this affords. In fact, without this sort of objectivity, fundraising technology services companies can become hammers in search of nails.
We look forward to continuing to provide years of unbiased technical, operational, and digital assistance to our clients–whether they use Salesforce, Blackbaud or Ellucian products, or something else entirely!
Could your next project benefit from some objectivity? We’re here to help.
Chris Cannon is President of Strategic Services at Zuri Group. His areas of expertise include fundraising strategy and systems, staff and resource management, database management, business intelligence and data reporting, database conversion projects, gift and data processing, and technology needs.