How Important Is It To Ask the Right Questions When Interviewing Stewardship Consultants?
By: Jim Klote
At nearly every presentation I make regarding the services we provide, I am asked “what other questions should we be asking?” Actually, I appreciate the question. It indicates an initial trust and willingness to invite advice. There are many questions I believe church leaders should be asking when considering partnering with a stewardship consulting firm. Naturally, there is a significant difference between stewardship consulting for churches, and fundraising consulting to any non-profit.
Now, the first question is, “how do we even find firms to interview?” You can look on the Internet and pick a few to interview, or you can call around to area churches that have done campaigns and ask for recommendations. You can call your conference or diocesan development office and ask if there is a recommended firm. In the end, you are going to have to choose from a few recommended firms and interview them to see which method best suits your expectations.
It is important to view the firm’s website prior to the interview to learn a few things about the firm. During the interview process, decide if the firm’s approach is a good fit with your church, determine whether part-time or full-time consulting best suits your needs and consider asking some essential questions that I have provided to churches to assist them in making a decision listed below.
1. Does the firm provide full-time or part-time service? In follow-up, ask why the type of service it provides is superior to others. If the representatives don’t think it is superior, why do they offer it?
2. Full-time on-site consulting generally will raise 4-5 times a church’s annual giving, do your clients enjoy the same results?
3. What is the average length of a campaign for a church our size? How does that compare with churches of other sizes? What factors drive whether a campaign is shortened or lengthened?
4. Will your consultant be available to us to meet our volunteers’ needs, or will we have to arrange our volunteers around the day the consultant is scheduled to be at our church?
5. What are your fees and costs associated with retaining your services? Are there any hidden costs we need to know about?
6. Will your service provide us with a consultant who can accompany us on personal visits and presentations to prominent church members? If the schedule changes at the last minute, will the consultant be flexible?
7. Do you feel that there is value to your participation in a Readiness Assessment/Feasibility Study before the campaign, or could we do one on our own? If you can do one, does the church leadership need to be involved? Would you favor conducting more personal interviews or more group meetings? How do you structure such a meeting?
8. (If applicable) Before the Readiness Assessment/Feasibility Study, does your firm help us, or should we anticipate preparing on our own until you arrive for the first meeting?
9. What is the cost for this preliminary work provided by your firm?
10. What is the number one reason we should choose your firm? The amount of money you raise? The impact your service has on the volunteers? The length of the campaign?
Okay, I admit it. Some of these are trick questions. The point is, how a firm answers these questions is very telling of the service it will provide during the campaign.
After hearing the difference in the types of service offered, you have to decide how much time and effort you can expect to be contributed by the members of your church to the administration of the campaign.
No matter what any consulting firm tells you, someone at the church is going to be responsible for the campaign 100 percent of the time. If you have a full-time consultant, your church members or pastor will not be the one drafting letters, training volunteers, picking up brochures, and contacting speakers; the consultant is doing that work. Some firms will encourage you to hire an additional staff person to assist in the campaign. This ultimately means you are paying the consulting firm to instruct you on how to add to your staff. Between the part-time firm’s fee and the salary of a new and inexperienced employee to provide assistance in the fund raising and bookkeeping to achieve one times annual giving, this tends to be the costliest way to conduct a campaign.
If we can be of any service, please feel free to contact me directly.