At LightBox Collaborative, we love to share the stories of our work and demonstrate the impact we help our clients create. And we’re always pleasantly surprised when someone takes the time to write a case study about our work for us!

We are proud of the work that we do with the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. So, we were thrilled when the model we developed in partnership with their team became a best practice acknowledged in the article, “Assessing Nonprofits’ Communications Capacity: An Online Self-Assessment Tool,” in The Foundation Review.

The article’s authors took on a large-scale survey of the field for a comprehensive look at the state of communications work in nonprofits. Through their research, they found that the most successful organizations have coupled strong, competent communications staff with expert consultants. This division of labor allows consultants and staff to focus on their part of the work, play to their strengths, and exceed expectations for success.

In the case of the Haas Jr. Fund, our ongoing relationship means that LightBox Collaborative is intimately familiar with the Fund’s goals, the work of the grantees, and organizational priorities. Plus our engagement with other clients and the rest of the field helps us bring in fresh perspective and new ideas.

This is not an either/or. Organizations shouldn’t rely on outside consultants in place of dedicated communications staff, and communications staff shouldn’t feel they have to do it alone. Consultants can bring specialized skills, add capacity, and provide a reality check on “organization think.” At the same time, in-house communications staff can protect and promote your brand, improve understanding of the discipline across departments, and serve leadership needs on an ongoing basis.

Here are our top three tips on how to work with your consulting partners to help advance your organization’s goals:

  1. Clearly define success for the consulting engagement. Know how success will be measured and make sure the consultant understands your metrics, too. This will help everyone involved stay focused on your most important outcomes.
  2. Be candid about your constraints. Whether it’s a tight budget, a small staff, or both, it’s likely the consultant has seen it before. Share your challenges right up front, and you may be pleasantly surprised by a consultant able to offer creative solutions to common nonprofit challenges.
  3. Trust counsel. Your consultant may make a recommendation that shifts away from how you’ve always done it, or seems to stretch your organization in a new way. Before you dismiss it, get curious and try to see things through fresh eyes. After all, that’s what you hired them for!

We are extremely proud of our work with the Haas, Jr. Fund—and with all our awesome clients—over the past three years. We think their stories of success represent the best of what communications can do to advance good causes. We’re honored to have a small part in their successes!
. . .
Holly Minch is LightBox Collaborative’s chief engineer and founder, and her favorite consulting projects are the ones that make our clients shine!.