1 min Read
March 14, 2012

Help! Hiring an Agency

These days, more and more nonprofits seem to be looking for professional help as they revamp their communications to make a stronger case for support, generate content, integrate social media, and shift away from print, all with limited staff capacity.  But finding the right agency or consultant is a bit like finding a spouse; the ones that look good at first glance aren’t necessarily the ones you want to get into bed with.  Before you make a commitment, here are three questions worth asking up front:


How does your fee structure work? Most seasoned freelancers, consultants or agencies have fixed hourly rates that are reflective of the market. Those that charge a flat fee typically track time in detail, using the data from past projects to estimate future work. Asking them to explain how their fee structure works, how they track time, and where overages can occur will help you understand how they get paid and learn how transparent they are.

Who will I work with if I engage you? Will you be working with experienced people? Many nonprofits have ended relationships with agencies, particularly those offering their services pro bono, because they felt the staff servicing them where too junior or just didn’t get it.  

How much experience do you have on projects like mine? If you needed to have open-heart surgery you’d want a surgeon with lots of experience conducting the exact same procedure, right? Ask to see case studies or talk with past clients so you can be sure your investment has a better shot of yielding the expected results. Sure, you may opt to take a chance with a less experienced consultant, especially if the work is being done pro bono or at a discounted fee, but best to know that up front.

A good agency, consultant or freelancer should be as invested as you are in making sure there’s a good fit between your needs and what they do. Give them time to ask you questions by phone or face-to-face. Chances are, they can determine if there’s likely to be  a good fit even faster than you can, as they’ve (hopefully) ‘dated’ much more than you have.