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Interventionism is a hot topic. Whether you are talking about wars, international aid, third sector lobbying or charity trustees. It is the same for fundraising consultancy, which is essentially an intervention requested by a charity.

Where the waters muddy, however, is when as a fundraising consultant you are briefed to intervene in one area of fundraising and it soon becomes clear that the issues are elsewhere. It may be that other departments are not supporting, that the CEO is disinterested or that the whole organisational culture is not set up for fundraising.

It is often the case, if you keep asking why something is the case, that you can delve deeper and get to the cause of the issue, rather than remain in the outer sphere of symptoms, a bit like peeling back the layers of an onion.

Now, the issue as a fundraising consultant is where do you stop? How many layers do you peel away when you have agreed a fixed price with the charity client? Human nature demands getting to the crux of the problem, which may require a root and branch review of the whole organisation, when the brief is to get major donor fundraising back on track.

Our approach at Money Tree Fundraising is to start with a comprehensive proposal that follows a proven process; listen, review, assess, set goals, plan, then deliver. This is the only way to ensure enough of the onion is peeled away to get the heart of any issues and recommend the steps required for positive change.

So often, however, this full approach is beyond the budget of a small charity, our core market, which is entirely understandable. After a period of negotiation and discounting as much as we can, we can tend to agree a smaller package of support, which will add significant value to the charity, but perhaps not the step change in performance that we and our charity contact would really like.

Money talks and budgets are tight – yet how often do we talk about the need for investment in fundraising when the pool of donor income is narrowing and methods to approach donors are tightening? Charity trustees and executive boards need to ensure that their fundraising teams are on the right track and are well supported across their organisations. This requires investment, in time, resources and, at times, external guidance.

We all need a helping hand sometimes, someone to point us in the right direction. I certainly did during my years as a fundraising director. The complaint often directed at consultants is that they tell you what you already know. The reply to that argument is that if you pay someone to tell you the colour of the onion on the outside, don’t be surprised when you come to the same conclusion. Really knowing your onions requires you and the consultant being bold enough to peel back enough layers until your eyes water.

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