Decide who should be involved in the screening process

If there are key staff and board members or other stakeholders that will be involved in the project, there is good reason to involve them in the consultant selection phase. For example, if you are beginning a large-scale project such as a strategic plan, you may wish to put together a planning committee consisting of key staff, board and other stakeholders who will lead the project. It is important that this group be involved in the early stages of the project, including consultant screening, in order to create buy-in early on. This group could be involved in reviewing a draft RFP, reviewing consultant proposals and interviewing consultants.

Evaluating Consultant Proposals

Develop a screening process for consultant proposals, which allows you to evaluate consultants' qualifications, assess the soundness of their plans, and determine whether their approach and style would be a good fit for you and your organization.

It can be helpful to create an evaluation matrix that helps guide you in evaluating each proposal for similar items or qualities that are important to your organization and project

Relevant expertise. Does the consultant appear to have the specific skills needed to complete the job?

Experience. Does the consultant demonstrate experience in conducting similar projects? For organizations similar either in size, agency type, or both? Do you know any of the organizations on the consultant’s past client list? If so, save this information for your reference-checking phase.

Proposal clarity. Was it clear? Well-written? Well-organized? Did it answer all of your questions?

Appropriateness. Did the consultant attempt to tailor the proposal to your organization and reflect back some of what you expressed in your RFP? If it sounds too much like a boilerplate, this should be a red flag.

Personal style. Does the consultant seem to project a style and approach that is appealing or sounds like a good fit for your organization?

Cost. Is the proposal budget within your range? If it is out of range, does the consultant’s skill base and experience justify considering a financial stretch? You can always go back to the consultant and ask if they can modify the proposal in order to scale back the cost if needed.