the wrong way to find a consultant

Why Not to Issue a Request for Proposal (RFP)

Your organization is facing a need, or an opportunity, or an idea, and you want a consultant. How to find the right one? Here’s a traditional approach. Map out the project, write an RFP (Request for Proposal), put it out there, gather bids from various consultants, sort through them, pick the best, and hire. Good approach, right?

Wrong. The problem is, you’re way better off if you work together with the consultant to map out the project in the first place. You will benefit greatly from their expertise and perspective in framing the need/opportunity/idea, and from working together with them to devise the plan for how to address it.

So find a consultant the way you find an employee. Yes, draw up some idea of the kind of person you’re looking for and what you need them to do, but then ask around for recommendations, think of people you know, look at qualifications and experience, make a shortlist, do interviews, check references, and hire – for this specific project. Then once you’ve decided on the who, have a conversation together about the need/opportunity/idea and how to approach it. Much better.

This is why many (most?) consultants today (including me) generally don’t bother with even looking at RFPs. Because we want to serve our clients well, and the RFP approach doesn’t get us there.

love, joy, peace … Michael Michael is a freelance consultant to nonprofits, with an emphasis on research. Contact him for a free, one-hour consultation.

Vol. 1 No. 5

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