Foundation Operations: Managing Operations-> Outside Staffing - GIH Skip Navigation

Foundation Operations: Managing Operations-> Outside Staffing

When should I use a consultant?

Foundations, like almost any other organization or business, can increase their human capital by contracting with temporary workers and consultants to help with ongoing work and special projects.
Consultants, who are generally individuals with a certain expertise or specialized knowledge and resources, often assist new foundations on an interim basis. They are also retained at health foundations to:

  • establish communications programs;
  • create Web sites;
  • build databases;
  • conduct evaluations of grants, initiatives, or a foundation's overall performance;
  • lead strategic planning efforts;
  • offer board development and education;
  • provide ongoing technical support;
  • coordinate community needs assessments; and
  • plan for new grant programs.

Consultants can be individuals who freelance or have their own businesses, or can be retained from universities, public relations, public affairs, or information technology firms. They can be contracted by a foundation to work hourly, by project, a period of time, or by a retainer.


The key to a good working relationship with a consultant and to having your goals met is 1) to know up front what you need, 2) how you would like the work and contract to be structured, and 3) what product you expect in the end.

Tech Soup, an organization that helps nonprofits with their technology needs, recommends that a consultant's contract include the following:


  • Project Description – the overall goal of the consultant's work;
  • Project Objectives – the products or “deliverables”;
  • Consultant's Responsibilities – the consultant's specific tasks or major steps they will take to complete the project;
  • Foundation's or Nonprofit's Responsibilities – what is required from the client for the consultant to be able to do his/her job;
  • Fees – what are the costs for different phases of the consultant's work;
  • Time Schedule – the phases of the project, including starting times, any intermediate benchmarks and anticipated completion dates; and
  • Legal Terms – a discussion of the consultant's non-employee status, confidentiality, the ownership by the agency of products developed under the contract, a bar on subcontracting if applicable, and a clarification of circumstances under which the contract may be canceled by the parties.



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