Working with consultants and freelancers

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This guidance aims to support charities by giving them advice on how to best develop working relationships with consultants. Working closely with the Chartered Institute Consultants Group, this guidance was written in partnership with Fundraising Consultancy Yorkshire, CN Fundraising Consultancy and Prospecting for Gold.


Charities and the wider not-for-profit sector fulfil extraordinary work, creating positive, meaningful, and lasting change both in the UK and around the world. But most charitable organisations will, at some point, need some help, advice, or contributions from someone outside their organisation to improve or guide their work. In the UK we are fortunate that there is a wealth of expertise and insight available across fundraising and the not-for-profit sector that they can bring in by working with a consultant, freelancer or agency.

This guidance is aimed at helping develop the best working relationships between fundraising organisations and a consultant.  While many of the principles will be the same for charities contracting with agencies, the relationship with an individual is often different from working with a large agency where there may be an account manager, a creative team, a finance department and a range of in-house expertise. For detailed guidance and advice on working with fundraising agencies, see our guidance ‘Successful partnerships for sustainable fundraising’.

Fundraising consultants, contracted workers and consultants - is there a difference?

Although this isn’t always the case, fundraising consultants tend to give advice and strategic input, while freelance fundraisers and contracted workers tend to deliver hands-on practical tasks, such as writing funding bids or creating a corporate membership scheme.  However, the terms are often used interchangeably and often consultants, contractors and freelancers will cover all areas.  For clarity and ease we will use the term ‘consultant’ from here on.        

Why work with a consultant?

Working with someone outside the organisation can provide the voice of an expert, a critical friend, or insight from a specialist which is not available within your team, and at a cost-effective price. When the relationship works, there is no doubt that consultants provide a hugely valuable and needed range of services for organisations across the UK. 

However, the success of that work does not happen out of the blue – the right foundations need to be in place, on both sides, for the relationship to work well and successful outcomes to be achieved.

What are the kinds of work a consultant might do with you?

Top tips to consider before hiring a consultant

Be as specific as you can about what you need help with

To ensure you find the right person/people with the required skills and experience a written brief is strongly advisable.  This can cover:

Can you provide the consultant with the necessary time and information they will need to complete the work effectively?

This is likely to include providing a clear understanding of the background, aims and objectives of the organisation, along with vision for the future.  It also means ensuring time for regular catch up’s and updates so the consultant can effectively fulfil their role.

Who do I need to involve before recruiting a consultant?

Fundraising has more success when it is embedded throughout the organisation and this includes involving volunteers, staff and trustees.  A good question to ask therefore is ‘who needs to be involved in the recruitment, induction and ongoing engagement with the consultant’?

Agreeing payment terms and commission

Q: Can I pay a fundraiser by commission?

A: The Chartered Institute of Fundraising states that the payment of commission fees should only be paid in exceptional circumstances . 

'You must not use commission payments unless:

Standard 2.5.4- Paying fundraisers-  The code of Fundraising Practice 

Your organisation is also responsible for monitoring any commission payments it makes (see standard 2.5.5).

Mandatory requirements for charities

Best practice for charities

Following these practices will assist with the relationship between yourself and the consultant ensuring a more successful partnership:

Types of insurance to consider

If you are using an agency that employs staff they may have Employersliability insurance which covers you and your business for compensation costs if an employee becomes ill or injured as a result of the work they do for you. It's legally required of all businesses with one or more employees.

How to secure a consultant

Consultants can be found:

Once you have found a consultant you should:

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