Legal counsel for nonprofit organizations
and social entrepreneurs

Finding the Right Service Provider

Posted on by bentakis

I have a guest blog post at the Center for Nonprofit Advancement with some tips on how to find the right service provider for your nonprofit, which previews an upcoming workshop I am teaching at the Center titled “Getting the Most Out of Your Consultants and Service Providers.” I’ve reprinted the post below.

There are few decisions more crucial for a nonprofit than the decision to hire a consultant, accountant, attorney or other service provider. Choosing the wrong service provider can waste precious time and money, and lead to mistakes that damage your organization’s reputation.

Finding the right service provider is no easy task. There are thousands of consultants, accountants and attorneys in the D.C. metro area alone, each with different specialties, styles, and prices. And it’s often hard to know what type of service provider you need (all too many are happy to take your money, whether they can help your organization or not).

The most egregious hiring mistakes can be avoided by following a few simple guidelines:

Get free advice from different perspectives first. Run your issue by a number of people to sharpen your understanding of your needs before scheduling consultations. Insurance brokers, other nonprofits, and workshops are great sources of free or cheap advice.

Seek referrals from trusted advisors. It’s crucial to develop a network of smart, well-connected advisors with good character. Referrals from trusted advisors will be more reliable than slick ads or websites.

Always interview a few companies before making a decision. Most service providers know how to make an impressive pitch. Any gaps in their expertise usually won’t be apparent until you’ve spoken to a few different experts.

Pay for expertise, not size and prestige. Paying for bigger companies does not necessarily guarantee great service. Bigger companies sometimes delegate nonprofit client matters to staff with less training. Small and specialized firms can often get you the best bang for your buck.

Consider changing service providers every so often. This will ensure that you get a fresh perspective and work with someone who is motivated to earn your business.

The “Getting the Most Out of Your Consultants and Service Providers” class on October 9 will examine tips like these for finding the right service provider for your need, review the core competencies of various service providers used frequently by nonprofits, and discuss other ways that nonprofits can get the most for their money when working with service providers.

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