I have had to remind myself lately about a few things related to management and contracts. EVERYONE has different work styles. Much like dating, some people are just not compatible in the work department. Sometimes you have to hang up the notion that something might suddenly start working. You usually know right away when it won’t. The past two times this has happened to me I had a gut feeling before I took the gig and I ignored it. So what do you do as a consultant when you find yourself in a less than ideal relationship with a client? How can we avoid this to begin with?
- BE AS CLEAR AS POSSIBLE IN YOUR CONTRACT. This is the thing you can always go back to in order to measure results, success and to work through disagreements.
- ALWAYS TRUST YOUR GUT. This just can’t be stated enough. If you have an uneasy feeling beforehand, take that feeling to heart. Have an up front conversation about it. If you are replacing somebody who didn’t work out, find out what you can about why they couldn’t work well together.
- YOU TOO CAN FIRE A CLIENT. Fundraising is a partnership. If an Executive Director isn’t fulfilling their end of the relationship, it’s time for real talk. You can’t just roll in and be the face of the organization – they have to be engaged. Especially as a consultant, you are the behind the scenes person making stuff happen. Keeping a client who is not on track for success could make you look bad.
- BE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR EXPERTISE UP FRONT. You can’t do everything. I have learned this lesson the hard way because I have always worn many hats. One of the organizations I used to work for now has FIVE full-time people doing the job I was hired to do. Through that and years of *every-possible-hat-wearing*, I became the greatest non-profit generalist ever. What did I learn? Find what you love, become an expert in that thing and stop taking every bit of work that comes your way (especially not at a deep discount).
- STOP GIVING YOUR SERVICES OUT FOR FREE. Sure its okay to trade, or do low-bono for a time – but treat yourself like you deserve what you DO deserve. Don’t second guess yourself. There are hairdressers who make more hourly than I used to charge clients, particularly friends, and still sometimes do.
One final note: The vicious cycle of organizations that hire development directors and lose them within a year or two is real. I can help you change that. And that, friends, is one thing I truly love about this work! (Visual below from @FiredUpFundraising)