Setting Expectations - Your First Meeting with a Consultant

So - you're working in a non-profit (or for-profit) organization, and you're planning to hire a consultant.  After determining whether hiring a consultant is a good idea for you (see this post), be sure to prepare for your first meeting with the consultant - the contracting meeting.  Here you'll determine what type of consultant you need, and what to expect from your first meeting with them. Major Types of Consultants*

  • Technical Consultants - provide highly specialized expertise and work - usually called technical assistance - like website development.
  • Program Consultants - have specialized "content" expertise from a specific field, for example, mental health. Sometimes can be referred to as technical as well.
  • Management Consultants - assist management in better leading, planning, organizing and coordinating resources. This is a facilitated process and can be technical or organizational development related in nature.
  • Organizational Development Consultants - help improve performance  = by focusing on changing a significant portion of the organization, or the entire organization itself.  These consultants offer a wide variety of approaches, tools and techniques depending on the need.

No single type listed above is better than the rest - one may simply be more appropriate to your situation.  Any of the above experts can be used in different ways in your organization - either as experts with authority on opinions, as facilitators to pull out your team's expertise in order to make decisions, or simply a pair of hands to get the work done.  Common Good Solutions has and can be all or any of those three.

Now that you know that you need a consultant, and what type you probably need, you can contact potential consultants for a meeting - to see who best fits your organization. You may have even sent out an RFP, and are now meeting with each bidder.  Below is what you should expect from your consulting meeting:

The consultant may ask you:

  • Where are you now in this work? Who has been involved?
  • What's the history of this situation/problem/opportunity in your organization? Providing documentation/reports would be helpful.
  • What have you done so far to address the need? What worked and what didn't?
  • Who will be involved in this project? Who are the stakeholders, and who would we ideally include?
  • What will this project affect, if successful?  What will it affect, if unsuccessful?
  • What's your org's culture like?  What's the dress code?  Are meetings always on time, for example? How do you make decisions?
  • How do you like communicating?  Call, Skype, email, in-person meetings?
  • How do you make decisions?  Through group feedback, or alone, or only with a few others?
  • Do you have the time to do this project?  Do you have the money to do this project?
  • Yours and others' involvement in the project - the consultant will talk about what that will look like moving forward.
  • Do you think we're a good match to work together on this project?
  • Do you have any concerns or questions we haven't addressed?

Don't expect the consultant to provide you with an outline of the work and its cost immediately - unless they've already responded to the RFP and they've been accepted.  If this is their first time meeting with you - they'll have to take the info learned here back to their office and think about how best to approach the project, what materials and other expertise need to be used, what can be done in a certain budget, and what the timeline will look like given your availability.  When you receive the offer an want to accept, make sure that at least two people in your organization sign the agreement - so you have two different people looking at the agreement.

Now you've got it! Going into a consulting meeting prepared will certainly help you get the most for your time and money.

Have any questions about this article, or others?  Email or call 902-483-4845.




*Taken from: "Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development with Nonprofits" by Carter MacNamara