First, the bad news. Because of the economy, many nonprofit professionals (in addition to many other professionals) are looking for ways to earn extra money due to being laid off from their jobs or being placed on part-time status by their organizations. But the good news is that also due to the economy, lots of organizations are even more short-staffed than ever and are in need of temporary, part-time or consulting help. So instead of getting a second job at Target, nonprofit professionals (and even students) can use their education, experience and entrepreneurial spirit to earn more money for their household by helping other organizations do their work better. I call it a nonprofit side hustle, but you might even call it the new overtime for folks who want to earn additional income beyond their full-time jobs. To get us started, here’s a brief FAQ for those who are thinking of dipping their toes into the nonprofit consulting waters.

What is nonprofit consulting?

When you say consulting, most people think of the common Webster definition, which is to provide professional or expert advice. In the nonprofit world, though, that definition is actually expanded to include subcontracting and project management. In other words, nonprofit consulting is not just organizations paying someone for advice, but it also includes organizations paying someone to actually implement or deliver a particular portion of the work. Keep in mind that foundations and other philanthropic institutions have consulting needs just like direct-service nonprofits do!

A few synonyms for nonprofit consulting:

  • subcontracting
  • freelancing
  • independent consulting
  • coaching
  • capacity building

What do potential nonprofit consultants need to know?

When I first started thinking about consulting two years ago, the Entrepreneur website was like my bible. This article alone has enough general information in it to give you a really thorough overview of what consulting looks like as a side business.  More recently, though, I’ve benefited from the wisdom of other nonprofit consultants who’ve been at it for a while:

What kind of consulting do nonprofits need? What are some examples of projects that nonprofit consultants work on?

All kinds. Nonprofits and foundations generally have a very lean staff, so there is often not nearly enough support for core organizational management areas like fundraising, marketing, finance, human resources, or technology. Nonprofits also need training to provide their staff and board with ongoing professional development or to facilitate organizational change.
Some examples of nonprofit consulting projects:

  • Grantwriting
  • Conference planning
  • Training for board or staff
  • Strategic planning
  • Workshop and retreat facilitation
  • Executive coaching
  • Copywriting
  • Web development

Is nonprofit consulting for you?

I have to be honest here – consulting is really hard to do when you already have a full-time job. But if you’re like me five years ago when I had to work part-time as a hostess at a chain restaurant to make my nonprofit paycheck stretch a little further, consulting might just be a welcome addition to your life. It takes some serious organizational skills to hold down a regular job and then go home at night or on the weekends to do client work. To get a feel for a day in the life of a nonprofit consultant, check out these recent chat transcripts from the Chronicle of Philanthropy:

Are there professional associations for nonprofit consultants?

Yes. There are formal ones and informal ones. Many nonprofit associations are great for consultants to join to receive ongoing training and gain access to potential clients. A few of the formal ones (where you have to pay dues):

Other really good, informal networks for consultants: