How to Partner With Fundraising Consultants: Tips and Ideas from A Pro

Learn what to look out for when working with fundraising consultants, how to choose the right consultant, and more from our interview with Tim Bertram!
Fundraising consultants
About the guest:

Video transcript ↓

Tim:

It's great to talk about ROI and the hard numbers, but there's a lot of like, what are we trying to do here at the end of the day?

You know, we're trying to improve people's lives. We're trying to increase freedom.

And being able to show people, you know, what your donation is actually going to accomplish is a really critical factor in being able to raise money.

Patrick:

Hey there, this is Patrick with Anedot.

Today we're having a conversation about partnering with consultants and agency to raise more money.

I'm joined by Tim Bertram, partner and co-founder at Optimize Consulting. How are you doing today, Tim?

Tim:

Hey, how is it going? I'm doing great. How are you?

Patrick:

I'm doing well. It's a good day today and I'm happy to be able to talk to you.

Can you tell me a little bit more about what Optimize Consulting, you know, what you guys do, who you serve, you know, kind of just a little bit about you and your background.

Tim:

Yeah, sure. So Optimize Consulting, we got started in 2018 as a side gig. And then learned that I could do it full time.

So, we basically service the pro liberty organizations and candidates.

So, that's prospecting emails, that's house file emails, it's Facebook advertising. It's also CRM management and automations.

And on the nonprofit side, we also help kind of upgrade donors as well.

Patrick:

Yeah and you mentioned that Optimize like it started as kind of a side project sort of thing.

How did you and your co-founders find each other? And how did, you know, what is kind of in the building process for you?

Tim:

We worked in different digital marketing agencies before. And we just kind of collectively came together and realized that we can drive a lot more value than I think a lot of the other agencies can do.

You know, I think one, you see where the partners aren't necessarily involved in the day to day. So we like to drive value there.

And we're also just, you know, we try to really identify with the core things our clients want. They want new leads.

They wanna upgrade someone from being a $100 donor to a 1,000 to 5,000 to 10, whatever that may be.

So that's kind of how it all came to be is that we had worked at previous agencies before and figured that we can really help drive more value for people with what they really at their core want.

So some people really engaged and then you're like, oh, look how many Facebook likes and reactions I can get you on this social posts. Whereas, you know, we're a fundraising agency.

Don't buy Facebook likes, do this instead

So you can look at our report at the end of the day and know, okay, are these guys actually raising the money?

And we know the tools that we work with such as Anedot or HubSpot. Our fundraising in ethical ways. That's really important to us too.

So that's why we decided to create Optimize Consulting is that we found that we can probably drive more value than others can and do it in an ethical way.

Patrick:

Gotcha, and kind of, what is your role in the company, and how do you interface with your clients on a regular basis?

Tim:

Sure, yeah, I think that's one thing that we do pretty well is that, you know, I think sometimes people hire an agency and they worry that, okay, I hear from the president or the co-founder during the business pitch and then the dude disappears immediately after.

So I'm actually pretty involved in the overarching strategy on the accounts. So we do like to be a little more involved and I think the most people do.

We really care about how we take that hundred dollar donor and convert them to being a consistent supporter of any organization or candidate.

So, we mostly interphase on that on the day to day.

Patrick:

Do you also interface with like their traditional fundraisers as well, or what does that relationship look like, you know, both of what you do and then maybe what some other vendors do?

Tim:

Sure, yeah. So we do, so a lot of like the direct mail partners of the events or a lot of the major gift officers.

So, we really try to merge those departments while I do digital marketing. I'm not anti direct mail or anything like that, but the beauty of digital as you get a multi channels, right, you get the phone number, the email, the address, which is awesome.

But again, we're really concerned with, if we can take that small donation and make it a bigger gift, you know, convert someone from being a three digit to a four figure to a five figure giver, that's really important.

And that does incorporate mail, in-person, you know, visiting the person, the phone calls, all of that. So, we work with the major gift officers and direct mail folks to get that done.

→ Learn how to use texting to improve direct mail fundraising!

The type of client who works best with fundraising consultants

The type of client who works best with fundraising consultants

Patrick:

Gotcha, and what would you say is like a good example of a success story?

You don't necessarily need to mention the organization, but just kind of, do you have like an idea that comes to mind of like a really good success story that you've had?

Tim:

Yeah, I wish I could name names, but I have to respect their NDAs, but yeah.

Patrick:

Of course, of course.

Tim:

So we've had a few clients where we've 5x to their donor base within a year's time.

So, what we have found with online prospecting is that some nonprofits they've primarily used mail as their method of prospecting.

So they're used to a new donor acquisition costing upwards, you know, 100, 150, even $200, whereas we can get it down to, we've had it as low as 10, but typically what we can get non-profits down to is a cost of $24 a donor, which is awesome when you're looking at, you know, $100 or more.

But so I'm really proud of the, you know, the donor basis. That's always really nice to go into a, a new business pitch with us, like how much return we can get people.

But ultimately what I'm most happy with is being able to take those that, you know, that person that gives $100. We do some automations where we're wealth screening them.

We say, oh, this person has some real capacity. We should actually try to meet with this donor, and getting them to give a $20,000 gift or a $100,000 gift.

Being able to talk through that and like getting that client that ROI that's gonna, you know, pay for our services for years to come.

That's what really, that's what I'm really after on the day to day.

Patrick:

Yeah, and when you're looking at a potential client, I'm sure both there's good vendors and bad vendors, but there's also good clients and bad clients.

Tim:

Sure.

Patrick:

When you're looking for a good client. What do you look for when you're thinking working with someone?

Tim:

We want clients who are willing to transform and are willing to grow.

So a lot of digital marketing and digital prospecting, it's not something that necessarily pays for itself month one, right?

It is an investment that nonprofits really have to consider and give time and effort.

So one, we want people that are looking to put time, to put effort, and to put money into, to actually invest in and make it profitable, but are willing to use the new technology that they haven't before.

They're willing to upgrade that donation page that they haven't touched since 10 years ago, right, that doesn't work, you know, when you click on Chrome or something like that.

So we want people that are willing to embrace tools and different ideas to grow.

→ Looking for tools to help manage and grow your nonprofit organization? Check out our extensive list of the best software for nonprofits!

How pricing works for fundraising consultants

Patrick:

Are you typically on like a mixed model of like a monthly retainer with someone?

Or do you have, you know, some type, what's kind of your model in terms of somebody who's gonna pay you? What kind of pushback do you get?

Tim:

Yeah.

Patrick:

So kinda how do you base your pricing along with making sure, you know, 501c or 501c4 says, hey, I like you to do something differently, you know, do you approach them when it comes to that kind of stuff with pricing?

Tim:

We really try to show people our ROI through our arrangements too.

So one, we like to do month to month, just because we found that a lot of nonprofits, especially C4s or C3s, they hire digital marketing agency, they have them on super high retainer and they cross their fingers, pray that it works out, right?

Then you have 10 months down the road and it hasn't, and they're stuck in this agreement that they can't get out of.

So we try to blend it where we're doing kind of a retainer and a commission that way our goals are aligned.

And that, you know, like if we're raising you more, you're paying us more, but everyone's happy because you know, we're bringing in more dollars, we're bringing in more prospects.

So that's what we really try to do.

'Cause we don't want people to get stuck into something where, oh, you know what, ultimately, you know, something didn't work out, or we want you to be happy because, wow, these guys are bringing us in so much more donors and so much more funds that we're really happy with this arrangement.

So I think the blended model is really the way to go for both the client and the agency perspective.

Biggest challenges of raising money for nonprofit organizations

Biggest challenges of raising money for nonprofit organizations

Patrick:

When you are raising money for nonprofits, what do you think are some of the biggest challenges that you face on just a day-to-day basis?

Tim:

I think a lot of donor officers kind of get in their minds that when they're speaking with their major givers and you have to figure out how that's gonna convert to a new donor, that's never once heard about you.

You know, if I send you an email or a letter or give you a call, and you've never heard about the organization before, you've got to find a way to quickly pull them in and then kind of give them a little more detail as to who you are, what you do.

So really nailing down that message is probably like the biggest challenge people have on their prospecting efforts. And then also just on the conversion side too of being willing to ask.

There's this great guy, he has this, one of the quotes, ask and you shall receive. His name was Jesus, right about everything.

And I'm really convinced that donor officers, sometimes there's a fear of asking and being willing to put yourself out there.

So we really try to help lead that effort and say, no, we are going to ask for funds. We're gonna ask it in an appropriate way.

We're gonna ask from people support levels, what we know about them to make that first time gift, to make that second gift or to make that larger sizable contribution to.

What to look out for when working with fundraising consultants

What to look out for when working with fundraising consultants

Patrick:

Yeah, that makes a ton of sense.

And I like that you talked so much about ROI, you talk about the approach that how you guys are a little bit different. And some of that may have been from past experiences.

You know, maybe not ones you've worked with other companies, you know, you've heard of, are there any examples you have of sort of like horror stories from clients you've worked with somebody else, maybe they didn't have the best experience, obviously without naming names with just like some examples of that, because I think it might be helpful for organizations to understand because they might say great, Tim, I love what you're saying, you know, but as I'm evaluating people, what can I do to sort of protect myself?

Tim:

Yeah, I would say the biggest thing, and we've encountered this a few times recently is you as the client, you need to own all of your assets.

You need to be in charge of any one of your accounts, your Facebook business manager, your Facebook ads account.

You need to own your email list, and you need to specifically call out that, hey, no, the vendor does not get to rent out or whatever, my list, 'cause you don't want it to be where, maybe you changed your mind about that agency or, you know, two years later, or you're not going to seek reelection or something changes.

And then you're stuck with an email list that you don't own and can't use, or a business manager account you can never access.

So, owning your assets and having transparency into those contracts, I think is the biggest warning, I'd give out to any client that's looking to work with an agency.

Patrick:

Yeah, and I've seen that too as well. Like sometimes, you know, I'll see the contracts where, you know, like you said, read the contracts.

Tim:

Right.

Patrick:

Make sure you understand what you're signing yourself up for.

Whether that be, you know, moving over somewhere else who has ownership, and also who can share it too, right?

You know, one thing that we do at Anedot that we're very strict on is we don't have any data sharing or are very strict, you know, strict things on data privacy. And there's different models, right?

There's some companies where you have the right to share a certain amount of data and you do that for a reduced rate.

But to your point it's very important to understand who owns what, and who us access to what, and what that looks like contractually in case the relationship doesn't go well, or you decide to go in a different direction.

Tim:

Right, I mean, just frankly put consultants can be vultures, they're looking to make the quickest buck they can, and you need to be able to protect yourself against that.

And you know, if you're, especially if you're a kind of a legacy C3 or C4, and you have donors that are giving sizeable contributions, you don't want some vendor giving away or, you know, calling up a donor that gives a hundred thousand dollars to your organization annually.

So you really do need to be protective of it.

Patrick:

Yeah, and kind of tied to that, just to follow up question on data sharing, are there standard practices with data sharing that people should watch out for? Because I would think every agency might have a different approach to kind of data sharing.

Tim:

They do. So that's something that's worth calling out as well, because you don't want it to be where you are under the impression that you own all of your data.

And then the agency that you hired is renting your list out to every single candidate running for dog catcher in America, right? And that does happen.

So, you need to just make it absolutely crystal clear who owns the data.

And if there are permissions to use the data that the agency has, what do those permissions look like, under what terms can they rent a list?

But I personally don't really believe that agencies should have ownership of the data. I think you create that for them.

And that's an asset that they get to own forever, but just make sure that you've made an arrangement with your agency to determine who owns the data.

→ Looking for ways to grow your email list? Here are 7 ways on how to build an email list for your nonprofit organization.

How to choose the right fundraising consultants

Patrick:

So what's really interesting is that even though you're a consulting company and we're a technology company, I feel like there's a lot of overlap and that everything that we do is about relationships and working with people.

So what are some of the ways that you optimize relationships and bring in that sort of heart, right, and really connect with some of the potential donors for the organizations that you work with.

Tim:

Yeah, sure. So my dad's actually a pastor back in Minnesota.

So I've kind of grown up with not exactly a fundraising education, but you know, as a pastor, he was concerned about, you know, raising dollars for the church.

And you really have to connect it to not just, you know, it's great to talk about ROI and the hard numbers, but there's a lot of like, what are we trying to do here at the end of the day?

You know, we're trying to improve people's lives, we're trying to increase freedom, and being able to show people, you know, what your donation is actually going to accomplish is a really critical factor in being able to raise money.

So, we kind of have a science and an art job where we bring the tactics that we know are gonna work, but we also have to have that art where we're telling people like how they're going to accomplish so-and-so job.

And you really do have to connect those two at the end of the day.

Patrick:

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And that's a good reason why they'd want a professional like you, right?

Is to make sure that they're connecting those dots both on the science side best practices and also making sure that somebody's brand is really shown through with what they're doing.

Is there any other piece of advice that you would give to organizations if they're thinking about hiring a company like yours or anything that you think they should be thinking about as they're looking at doing something like that?

Tim:

Yeah, I think you should just have radical transparency with people with pricing.

I've seen some nightmare situations where someone will charge a, you know, a 20 or 30% markup on ad spend, or on a list rental.

→ Learn more about the difference between revshares and email list rentals

That's something you just need to be aware of.

Patrick:

That makes sense. I mean, bottom line is protect yourself, know what's going on.

Closing thoughts

Partnering with fundraising consultants

Patrick:

If somebody wants to reach out to you, what is the best way to connect with you? If they're like, Tim, I love what you said. I want to potentially work with your company.

Tim:

Sure.

Patrick:

What's the best way to connect with you?

Tim:

Sure, yeah. I mean, probably just my email. It's tim@optimizeconsultingllc.com.

So, but that's probably the best way to reach me or my phone number 651-356-2455.

Patrick:

Perfect, yeah. So this was Tim with Optimize Consulting.

Thanks for being here with us today and sharing your insights on how to partner with agencies.

Tim:

Cool, thanks Patrick.

Patrick:

Hey, thanks for watching this episode of Learn From The Pros.

If you got something out of this video, be sure to leave a comment on our YouTube video with your biggest takeaway.

Also, be sure to like, subscribe to Anedot on YouTube, and hit that notification bell for more videos like these. I'm Patrick with Anedot, and I will see you on the next one.

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