One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for November 2014


leave a comment »

C Now - Time BanditOne of the many resources I use as a nonprofit writer/consultant/blogger is NetGalley, a site that features new books from publishers for review purposes. Every once in awhile, I’ll check out a random book – mostly for my own reading, but often to find something that can benefit nonprofit workers.

Edward G. Brown’s The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had is such a book. Available in both hardcover and Kindle formats, The Time Bandit Solution is an easy-to-understand guide  that provides direction and insight into how to better manage – and block – time.

Much like David Allen’s Getting Things Done, Brown’s book is a plain-English, very thoughtful guide to understanding how to be more productive. Unlike Getting Things Done (which focuses on work process and work flow), The Time Bandit Solution provides insight into blocking off time, establishing appropriate boundaries (or in Brown’s framework, avoiding interruptions) and establishing proper perspectives. For Brown, having “quiet time” (in which people reflect on projects and allow themselves the opportunity to gain perspective) is just as important as Time Blocking (which allows them to accomplish a great deal).

For many in the nonprofit arena (including myself), this is a very critical time of year. Assertive fundraising efforts, end-of-year paperwork, and higher client demand often results in greater demands on time and effort. Thankfully, Edward G. Brown provides some real-life examples from his own career and experience, and it’s a pretty solid, easy read.

This holiday season, there are many gifts you can give yourself – why not purchase The Time Bandit Solution? At the very least, it’s a critical tool for those of us working in social good: an easy-to-understand manual that helps us better use out time, set appropriate boundaries, and most importantly – accomplish the very work we’re setting out to do.

Any other resources you can suggest as nonprofits/social enterprises enter the holiday season? If so, please leave them in the comments below. You can also follow us on Facebook, or contact me directly – information found via the About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.


Written by gordondym

November 14, 2014 at 3:57 pm

How To Be a Genius At Hiring NonProfit Consultants

leave a comment »

BTP Adventures in Freelancing 1106Right now, many nonprofits throughout Chicago are entering their heaviest fundraising period….and that may mean hiring nonprofit consultants or freelancers to assist or take on short term tasks. (Social enterprises and social ventures are also constantly seeking marketing and consulting assistance). As a communications consultant, I find myself competing for work for a variety of causes and agencies….and one of the biggest “moments of genius” that I have had is simply this: sometimes, nonprofits don’t know what to look for in a consultant. So today’s post is focusing on precisely that issue: how to think and plan for hiring nonprofit consultants.

(There’s also a great chapter on thinking about hiring consultants in The Mission Myth: Building Nonprofit Momentum Through Better Business. I’ve written about the book previously, and it’s a great resource for a variety of nonprofit administrative functions. It’s also a very good, easy read.)

And so, without further adieu, here are some things to consider:

  • Spend Your Time Defining The Consultant’s Scope of Work – Many consultants are often told that there are two main issues: “fundraising” and “marketing”. Usually, those are catch-alls for very specific problems, such as “we need help with this extensive grant” or “we need assistance in developing a new web site.” Listing out a consultant’s task list – and determining what issues require external help – can be critical in developing an request for proposal (RFP). It is also important to consider budget, for reasons that will soon become apparent.
  • The Consultant’s Main Gifts Are Time and Expertise – When you’re hiring a consultant, please consider that this is not an intern or a volunteer – the consultant is a paid professional with a very specific skill set. Consultants bring a well-rounded focus to their work, but we are focused on one thing – the work. And on that note…
  • Do Your Due Diligence and Check Out Your Consultant – Doing a quick search on their Linked In profile can bring you insight into how they’re presenting themselves. Let me use my profile as an example. And for the consultants who are reading – you can check out agencies via Guidestar and a variety of other sites as well. Both sides want to be sure that there’s a good match. And once there is a match….
  • Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate – Most consultants work on either a project basis or an hourly rate depending on the time required to complete. Many nonprofits lack resources, but there may be other resources that can be shared. Don’t allow sticker shock to throw you…but also keep in mind that consultants trade on their time and effort.
  • Get It In Writing – Contracts are not bad things, and having a written contract with a well thought-out scope of work that outlines every aspect of the business relationship (and yes, nonprofits, this is a “business” relaitonship) benefits both parties. For a better explanation, check out this video (with NSFW language) about contracts – it focuses on design, but many of the prinicples work in nonprofits as well.
  • Establish a Communications/Check-In Plan – Whether your consultant is working remote or working in town, you need to have regular check-ins to determine progress. For remote clients, it may mean conference calls or free services like Skype to keep in touch. (Although e-mail is adequate, having regular “face time” is also important to maintain the relationship, and to also make sure you’re on task and on target)
  • Stick to the Contract – With many nonprofits lacking resources, it may be tempting to “add on” to the consultant’s list. Be sure you talk with the consultant to insure that it falls within scope, and amend the contract if it does. (Some consultants may decline pro bono work, but only because their time is valuable, and adding on tasks may not be in their best interests)
  • Make Sure You End on the Right Foot – If the consultant completes their work well, be sure that they leave on good terms. If, for some reason, the consultant doesn’t work out, you are still responsible for making sure the ending is handled in a professional, responsible manner.

Let’s face it – hiring consultants is probably not one of the “hotter” topics in nonprofit administration. But hiring a nonprofit consultant can be critical in growing a smaller agency, or helping a larger nonprofit maintain its presence. Hopefully, today’s post has helped clarify issues and has provided some insight into the process.

What do you think – have we missed anything? Any other guidelines you can suggest? You’re more than welcome to leave comments below. You can also get updates via our Facebook page, and you can contact me directly via the About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

November 6, 2014 at 10:43 am