MEMBER VIEWPOINT: Consulting does not equal commission in the voluntary sector

Geoff Howard, MInstF, a director of Craigmyle Fundraising Consultants and chair of the Institute of Fundraising's Consultants Group

As chair of the Institute of Fundraising's Consultants Group, I receive a wide range of enquiries, mainly from charities new to the prospect of retaining professional services and from individuals considering embarking on a consultancy career.

A question that frequently arises is, "How are consultants paid?" There is almost an expectation that it will be on a percentage basis and they are often surprised to learn that not only is this rarely the case, but also that the Consultants Group, in common with the Charity Commission, is not at all comfortable with commission payments.

We hold this position for a number of important reasons. The payment of commission disqualifies charities from consideration by some major funding sources, including distributors of National Lottery funds.

It can be demotivating to potential major donors if they know that a certain percentage of a large gift is going in commission.

It can also encourage a consultant to use inappropriate high-pressure techniques for short-term returns, which put at risk the client's relationships with supporters and seriously jeopardise potential greater support which might well emerge over the longer term.

Good consultants do not need the additional motivation that a commission may be thought to deliver. Their motivation is the need to maintain a track record to secure their position for the future.

If you do find professionals willing to work on this basis, be sure that you are happy for them to be your ambassadors and happy with their methods.

The Institute welcomes Viewpoint articles from its members. Please email the membership manager (

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