STOP HIRING CONSULTANTS*!
*when you should be hiring an employee
OK, so we know it might sound a little counter-productive for a consulting company to tell you to stop hiring consultants, but hear us out. As nonprofit consultants, we do a lot of networking and have a lot of conversations with people (mainly high level executives and board members in nonprofit organizations) who need help, and just as many people (we’re looking at you, earnest nonprofit professionals) who want to help.
Naturally, consulting is the answer, right?
Not so fast. While the nonprofit industry is filled with organizations who are fighting for fair workers’ rights, we’re not great collectively about how we deal with our own staffing issues.
We need to be better, in fact, we should be the best when it comes to paying equitably (but that’s a different blog altogether). In the meantime, we need to, at the very least, start being clear about the difference between being an employee, a contractor, and a consultant. What we often see is companies who hire a “generalist consultant” for a 3 month project that ends up being a 3-year commitment. While the relationship seems to be mutually beneficial on the surface, this poses a problem for both parties. For the employer, they may be unknowingly violating employment laws and for the employee, they may be missing out on pay, benefits and important insurance and liability coverages.
And this leads us to our main point: STOP HIRING CONSULTANTS before you actually have a good understanding of the difference between consultants, contractors, and employees! Hiring the right kind of person for the job has its own legal and financial implications.
There are many schools of thought on how to explain these differences, such as breaking things down by engagement levels or even distinguishing how one or the other may approach internal processes. One person in our office described the differences in the most eloquent manner and encouraged us to think of consultants as landscape architects, and contractors as gardeners. And then you can think of employees as both depending on their level of investment in your company.
So let’s break down what we do as a consulting firm. At Envision Consulting, we focus on finding solutions for nonprofits for executive leadership and management, development in programs, services and fundraising, and for marketing implementation. We’re not just about supporting your organization through crisis situations or leadership transitions. We’re about envisioning what’s best for the structure of your organization. We’re about building a sustainable future through training staff and developing viable processes with the right tools.
Speaking of the right tools, here's a nifty infographic we created to help you determine the differences between an employee, a contractor, and a consultant.