As an independent consultant who helps nonprofits secure grants and in my former career as an in-house lawyer, I’ve worked with a variety of clients. As an in-house lawyer, my clients were employees of the business (as was I), while currently I consult with organizations as an independent contractor.  I’ve found that in both situations, similar considerations contribute to a good working relationship, better value and best results.

Here are a few of my observations on effectively working with a consultant:

Partner with your consultant

Treating the consultant as an equal and valuable team member makes a difference.  When the relationship is collaborative and communication is frequent and open, the consultant is in the best position to make useful observations and suggestions, and to fully understand the project and the organization. This, of course, leads to best results.

Start early

Particularly in the area of grant development, there is never enough time.  Bringing in a consultant as soon as you know you want to apply for a grant or begin a project that has a deadline, the more time you have for careful planning and high quality execution.  Last minute scrambles, though sometimes unavoidable, can lead to mistakes and, with online application systems, the possibility of missing a deadline due to technological issues.

Share information

I tell my clients there is no such thing as too much information.  A good consultant can efficiently weed through scads of information to find what’s helpful.  In the area of grant development, previous proposals and reports to funders are the obvious types of useful materials but other kinds of background information (e.g., strategic plans and annual reports) can also contain helpful nuggets.

Follow up

Let the consultant know the outcome of his or her work.  Did you get the grant?  If not, do you know why not?  This type of follow up closes the loop, provides valuable feedback information, and strengthens the working relationship (should there be an ongoing relationship).

I hope this is helpful!  I’m also interested in your thoughts on what works and what doesn’t.