Jo Garner explains why, when working on a new project or fundraising campaign, it’s essential to begin with a clear brief prior to engaging a consultant – and to work with the ‘right’ supplier.
Ever had that meeting with a colleague where you’re talking about one thing and they’re talking on an entirely different level, without either of you realising it?
Fans of Rob Sitch’s brilliant political satire Utopia will recognise this as a well-worn and hilarious formula. Why so funny? Because we’ve all been there. We’re all familiar with the disconnect that often exists between various players and their priorities, and the frustration that ensues.
In the comedy, working on a tunnel project, Utopia media manager Rhonda says, “All right, let’s talk about the launch.”
Tony, leader of the National Building Authority, replies, exasperated, “I thought we already had a launch.”
Rhonda: “No. That was the announcement.”
Tony: “We’ve had enough media events! You know what? I don’t want a launch.”
Rhonda: “How else do we let people know we’ve started a project?”
Tony: “By starting it!”
Fundraising campaign briefs are all in the planning
You wouldn’t build a house from the ground up without first agreeing on the plans, right? The same goes for engaging consultants. When contracting external support for your grants program (or anything else), ensuring clear lines of communication between all departments, your nonprofit’s executive and any external providers is integral to working without waste and minus the hiccups.
So how do we ensure everyone’s singing from the same hymn sheet? It’s about getting the internal brief right, which involves process. While verbal briefings can be a great way of brainstorming and developing an idea internally, it’s vital that this becomes documented so key people can have input and review, and it can be signed off by the executive. Your brief will need to include:
• the background – what’s the lay of the land in your organisation and why is this project or campaign needed?
• clearly defined outcomes where the deliverables are spelt out – what is it exactly that you want to achieve?
• your budget and timeframes
• a clear understanding of issues around confidentiality and intellectual property
• a plan for what happens if the supplier does not meet deadlines.
Never assume everyone gets the same message from a document, either. Once the brief has done the rounds, ensure all of the relevant staff and executive discuss it together (before you engage an external company). This is the only way you can be sure everyone has the same expectations of outcomes.
Now you have internal cohesion around your brief and have spoken with a consultant, you are only half done: there are a few more steps to take to avoid ‘utopia-esque’ scenarios!
Was there good communication in that initial meeting with your consultant? If you’re having communication issues from the outset, you need to reconsider the partnership. If the company’s staff can’t communicate with you, how are they going to impart the correct information about your job to their team? It’s always best to have more than one staff member deliver the brief, leaving less room for misinterpretation or miscommunication with the external party.
Also consider whether your supplier has done its research and if it is able to speak to its background in the area in which you are seeking support. Equally, have you done your due diligence and checked its references – including the organisations it has worked with that it isn’t talking about? What have been the reasons for any past client/consultant relationship breakdowns?
Once your supplier is signed on, you need to get a few key things back from it:
• detail of all immediate and long term costs
• confirmation of which person will be managing the project – will they be a good fit with your internal project leaders?
• deliverables, timeframes, payment schedules and how they will manage things if they miss deadlines
• how they will keep you informed about the job’s progress or any issues
• confirmation they’ve understood the brief.
There are so many great organisations that have a tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience to share with the nonprofit sector. The onus is on you to be strategic and choose carefully. Get your internal brief right, ensure clear communications, select your supplier wisely and you’re sure to learn a lot and to be on the road to achieving even greater results.
Jo is the Director of Strategic Grants and a founding member of Women & Change, Queensland’s first Giving Circle.