How, you may ask, do I have time to sit here and write a blog post? Last you heard, I had three Friday deadlines and no time to spare.

Truth is, I’m in a holding pattern. It’s an occupational hazard. When you’re not under someone’s nose, they tend to forget about you. But here’s the downside of ignoring, putting off, deprioritizing or forgetting about your consultant.

I’m billing you whether you’re on the ball or not
That’s right. The clock is ticking while you’re telling me about your kid’s baseball game. Every time I have to come to your place of business to pick something up because you can’t figure out how to track a document–I’m charging you for the drive time; I could have spent those 30 minutes raising money for you instead of hunting for a parking space.  A big advantage of having a consultant rather than a staff person is the huge productivity gain–consultants working at home are much more productive than the people around you at the office. But I can’t be productive if I’m not getting the input I need when I need it.

Learn the technology
See above. It’s time to get over your inability to open an attachment, respond to a text, or use Twitter, Gchat, and other easy communication options. You also seriously need to stop marking documents in pencil and hardcopy only because “I just can’t edit on a computer screen.” Remember that fee that you tried to talk me down on? That’s what I’m charging you to retype your notes. Plus, the time I spend retyping, I’m not raising money for you. If you need someone to retype, hire a secretary. (Or better yet, just join the 21st century. The water’s fine).

The deadline is the deadline
Especially in fundraising, you just can’t put it off. If the funder says “May 30” he doesn’t mean “June 2.” I don’t make them up. Something is going to have to get to him by the deadline. Everybody’s busy; claiming that you or your staff don’t have time, or have more important things to do does not get that document done.  This is also true of fund appeal letters. They have a window. If you miss the window, you lose donations.

“Good enough”
No period at the end of the third sentence in the sixth paragraph? Well, that’s an error, but is it a serious enough error to delay an entire campaign, by days, since you aren’t responding to my emails, and are making me drive hard-copy print outs to your home, your office and your weekend place, because you’re not sure where you’ll be?  At least one fundraising guru thinks minor errors make your prospects read more closely. If there’s a factual error, or an egregious misspelling (“your” instead “you’re” for instance), stop it in its tracks. But if it’s good enough, send it out.

Get your staff on board
If your staff knows you think the consultant is a pain in the keester, they will drop requests from the consultants way down the must do list. And since your consultant is a classy dame, she’s not complaining, so it just looks like she can’t get anything done. If you then gripe about this in front of your staff you’re creating a lovely feedback loop, slowly tightening around the consultant’s neck.

Listen
A consultant is likely to be more honest and forthright about problems in your systems; it’s what you pay them for after all. Accept their comments and suggestions with an open mind. You don’t have to implement, no matter how much you’ve sunk into their fee, and when they get exasperated enough with you they’ll move on to another client. But if you don’t listen, you’re stuck with systems that don’t work, and out a chunk of change for ignoring the advice you bought.

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