It’s my observation that a lot of people who hold positions of responsibility in the nonprofit world can be intimidated by people from the outside, even if those same people came from the nonprofit world, too. Have you seen this phenomenon? This is whey its important, even if you came from the nonprofit sector, to work on building trust with your nonprofit clients.
Personally, I attribute it to the nonprofit propensity to put into leadership positions people who are good at the mission of the organization, who are not necessarily skilled in the management and operations of the enterprise they lead. For example, the best social worker becomes the head of a social work agency. The university professor works her way up to become the Dean of a college. The most dedicated environmentalist now leads and advocacy organization. While each of these people brings important dedication to their respective missions and certainly a a knowledge of the fundamentals of their mission, they quickly find that understanding revenue streams, personnel issues and facilities problems is a far cry from why they entered their field to begin with.
When businesses face the same issue, it is not uncommon for engineers, scientists, marketing professionals and others to enroll in higher education or other formal training in house to build their leadership capabilities and management acumen. This is getting some traction in the nonprofit world but not nearly as much as it should. The culture and the budget pressures point to putting more resources into mission and as little as possible into other, long-term personnel development programs.
How does this affect your consulting work? Well, if you can build relationships with your potential nonprofit clients so that they trust your judgment in areas that they are not experts in, you have one half the battle to not only get the engagement as their consultant, but to move their mission forward in a meaningful way. There’s no doubt that you can offer your client value and expertise that they wouldn’t already have. They just need to trust that you are working in their best interest first.