Top tips for commissioning a charity innovation consultancy project

If you’re asked to commission an innovation consultancy project for a charity it is natural to feel a little scared but don’t panic. Yes, you are talking about the unknown but you are also working to build new products, services, campaigns, and processes to make the world better for people.

Done right innovation can set the scene for real growth in a charity’s income, the influence you have with political stakeholders, truly delight your supporters and donors not to mention improving the lives of those you serve.

Here are four top tips to help you when commissioning an innovation consultancy project for your charity:

  1. Ask others for a recommendation. While the perception is of consultancy being quite an old-fashioned service, this is rapidly changing. Most consultancies will now have referral schemes, even be set up on online reviews. Ask people you trust, who they have used. Ask what they liked and didn’t about a certain consultant and their style.
  2. Try before you buy. Getting on with the consultant is crucial. It is worth asking for a free 2-hour face to face session. You can use this to work together scoping out a problem or for getting the consultancy to come in and chat with senior colleagues. Use their skills and experiences to allay fears.
  3. Ask for an ‘innovation contract’. This sets out clearly in writing the expectations between charities and consultancy about what the project will do, how it will operate and also how innovation is tied into the corporate strategy. It is easy to be bamboozled by ‘the theatre of innovation’ whereby a tonne of post-it notes and fancy powerpoint presentations are used to distract from a lack of progress. Focus on the real change made by innovation consultancy, not just what they did.
  4. Ensure you get a ‘kill clause’ when you commission the project. A ‘kill clause’ ensures that either side can end a contract, for a fee, if it is no longer working. In our experience, having this spelled out upfront prevents it from ever being needed.

Charities, campaigns, and organisations see the biggest benefits when innovation becomes a regular part of ‘business as usual’. It is not always easy to get this right, but working with an expert and experienced team can help you set the stage for the future success of your organisation.

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