Why I Like Being a Nonprofit Consultant

The Freelancer’s Union just published an article about why nonprofits are great clients. It’s true!

Nonprofits are a great market for any freelancer at any level – and for real, paid work, not just to build an early career pro-bono-based portfolio.

It’s a sad misconception among consultants and even some nonprofit staff that nonprofit consultants must be cheap and sometimes inexperienced. Many nonprofits try to use volunteers for projects like building websites when that work requires expertise and commitment that are rare to find in a volunteer. (That’s why I wrote an entire page on managing volunteers website projects on Nonprofit WP.)

While most of the article simply notes how large the nonprofit sector is and that many organizations actually pay their employees and contractors well—surprisingly common misconceptions among consultants in my experience—it includes some more important points buried in between.

“Nonprofits use a lot of the same services as business, but with a different twist”

I often try to explain this to people who don’t work with nonprofits. With a business, it’s usually quite easy to establish what the website needs to do: sell a service or product to a very specific customer. Nonprofits are trickier:

Nonprofit marketing might be more complicated since there are at least two “customers:” clients, and revenue contributors, like donors or government entities, all with different needs and perspectives.

This is why hiring a consultant with nonprofit experience is so important. Without the awareness of and experience handling the balance between all stakeholders, a consultant may end up ignoring critical needs for the people you serve or the people who support your work.

In the perfect scenario, nonprofit consultants have experience in the specific mission area (environment, education, social service, etc.) and the communities a nonprofit serves. The more you’re immersed in a nonprofit’s issues and community, the better you serve them.

“Mission is paramount”

This is what makes nonprofits unique (legally and culturally) and it’s why I love working with nonprofits! (Note: I don’t limit myself to working only with 501(c)(3)s and also work with other people who share my values and mission. My client list includes universities, B Corps, and fellow consultants too.) In many ways, I feel most comfortable around people working in many nonprofits because we are motivated by making a difference for people in our communities. That’s why nonprofits make great clients, especially for me.

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