How to Choose a Research Consultant
Identifying Prospective Research Consultants
Once your development department leadership has decided to hire a contract research consultant, they should first decide which type of consultant they feel comfortable with: a freelance prospect researcher (freelancer) or an independent prospect research consultant.
A freelancer is usually employed by a non-profit and does some fee-based research on the side. A freelancer may be authorized to use many of the resources of the non-profit for whom they work and therefore may be less expensive. The freelancer’s fee-based work should be at “arms length” from his/her primary employment at the non-profit. A prospective client should feel comfortable discussing this with the freelancer.
An independent prospect research consultant, as represented by PRCS, does all of his or her prospect research on a fee basis. As a result, the Independent Consultant may have a higher overhead, but may be more proficient, having been in the business longer than the typical freelancer. Also the consultant’s independence should not be an issue.
Networking and Referrals
Most research consultants base much of their fee-based business on referrals from colleagues, other fundraisers, or former employers.
In fact, networking and referrals are the best ways to find good research consultants.
• Ask about current and past clients
• Consult directories available through professional associations: e.g. APRA-NW, CARA & APRA.
• Look for active responders to Prspect-L and consultants active within their professional associations: e.g. APRA, CARA, APRA-NW, and AIIP.
• Use social and professional networks to find out more about prospective consultants: e.g. LinkedIn and FaceBook.
Check Google, Yahoo! or Bing for research consultant websites. If you already have a list of possible consultants, check to see if they have an up-to-date website.
Look for the following:
• Clarity and appeal of the website
• Easy navigation
• Adequate description of services
• Staff bios and photos
• Update frequency of website
• Easy ability to contact the consultant or freelancer.
Basic Information: Request basic information from each firm. Find out generally what kinds of services they provide. Most of this information should be available through a website, if available.
Types of Services: Full or focused Profiles; Briefs, Bios, and Blurbs; Consulting (auditing, planning, management); Sceenings (planning, selection, implementation, selling); International Research; Corporate & Foundation Research; Proactive Research (list development); Training.
Detailed Information: Narrow the field to two or three candidates and arrange a telephone or face-to-face briefing with each.
Developing & Negotiating Agreements
Is a formal proposal needed?
Might start small [single profile, small project under $1000].
Getting to know each other. Usually an oral agreement?
• Meeting Deadlines
• Guarantees of work quality
• Regular Communication
• Updates on research?
Formal Proposal [RFP]
After settling on a possible researcher, who has the potential to work on larger projects, request a formal proposal. Proposals should clearly state the costs, fees, services, and include a preliminary schedule.
On-Going Research Agreement
Should Contain the Following:
Services: What prospect research services will be provided? When and how often will you receive reports, and what will they contain?
Schedule: What is the time period of the agreement? When will it start, and when will it end?
Fees: What specific professional fees will be billed? What is the billing schedule? What additional expenses will be reimbursed by the client; up to what amount? Fees should always be based upon services rendered.
Independent Contractor Agreement: Acknowledgement that the prospect research consultant is an independent contractor NOT an employee and not subject to any employee benefits. Furthermore federal, state, and county taxes and other fees arising from fees paid are the sole responsibility of the research consultant and he/she shall hold the client harmless from any and all potential damages.
Confidentiality Agreement: Research consultant agrees to keep all client information, e.g. current donor and prospective donor information, confidential and not to discuss or divulge it to anyone other than appropriate personnel or subcontractors of research consultant.