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3 min Read
February 28, 2024

Finding the right fit – advice for vetting consultants

Your organization has a branding, communications, marketing, fundraising, or other project emerging and you are searching for a partner. After you have identified a list of agencies that would be a good fit, what comes next? Generally, a meeting is booked to determine if the consultant is a good match based on the project your nonprofit, foundation, or government agency is embarking on. These initial conversations or “fit calls” can help you determine which agencies to ask for proposals or contracts. 

Here’s a suggested list of topics and questions you might discuss based on the hundreds of calls we’ve had the pleasure of conducting.

About the agency

Learning more about who you may potentially be working with is an important part of the process. Most conversations start with introductions. Between that and a quick scan of their website and social media presence, you probably have a good sense of who they are and what they do. But do you know enough? Here are some questions you might ask to learn more:

What are your core values? Can you share an example of how they come to life in the ways you work with organizations like ours? 

Make sure their values align with your organization’s values. Probe to try to get a sense of how you can learn and grow together.

Who is on your team? What skills and backgrounds do they bring? How do you assign a project team?

Depending on the stage of the project (clarity of scope, timeline, process), this might be a general conversation about who is on their team OR a more specific one where you can ask for the names, roles, and qualifications of the team you will be working with.

Do you have a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility? What are some ways that commitment is alive in your company?

Beyond a few paragraphs on their website, ask about and listen for ways the agency’s commitment shows up in projects like yours, how they work internally, and how they collaborate with clients.  Will the agency match or complement your team’s culture?

About your organization

In this first conversation try to get a sense of how the agency will connect to your mission and project.  

Have you worked with previous organizations in our space?

Are they familiar with the important work you do? Ask them to highlight organizations they have done previous work with that are similar to your mission.

What aspects of our mission or project would be motivating to your team?

Are they energized by what you do? Make sure they are inspired by who you are and the project’s scope–it will reflect in the results.

About your project

Are they picking up what you’re putting down? Having an understanding of how an agency approaches a specific project increases the likelihood of achieving your desired outcomes.  

How will you get the project off the ground? How will you make sure it gets done on time?

How do they manage projects? Make sure they understand what’s needed and align on expectations. 

What is your project management approach? How do you engage stakeholders across an organization?

How do they prioritize work and communicate with you throughout the project? Who will be your primary contact? Listen for what tools the potential agency uses and how they can help you craft an inclusive process.  

What challenges do you anticipate?  

Do you have a solid process in place to tackle unforeseen issues or problems that may arise? Making sure the agency is ready for the unexpected will protect everyone from unwanted surprises during your journey. You might also ask for a recent example of a problem they overcame on a similar project.

It is crucial to establish mutual trust, kindness, and respect between nonprofit organizations, communications consultants, and creative agencies. We hope this approach will help foster a healthy and productive relationship, lead to a great project, and perhaps even ongoing collaboration!  

Jen Petersen

Jen Petersen is the Marketing Manager, Worker-Owner at Big Duck

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