Activity Breeds Support

Where, a friend asked me, do you get your clients?  She’s new to the consulting game and frustrated that clients didn’t swarm to her door when she hung out her shingle. Ah, the fantasies we all have.

So many people I know decide to consult, thinking that they will tell their friends and colleagues and like magic, they will have tons of work.


Nonprofit leaders—staff and board—often fall in that same trap. If we just tell our story, money will come pouring in.

Not so much.

It takes work. A lot of work. And time.

One of the ways I get clients is by doing workshops on fund and board development. Lots of workshops. And after the workshop, with participants permission, I subscribe them to my newsletter. And when someone who has taken a class from me emails or call with a question, I answer that question and don’t play the “I have the answer, which I will give you once you hire me” fame. If what they are asking is too complex for a simple email or 10 minute phone conversations, I’ll tell them and offer to send a proposal. And then I give them the short answer. This is called cultivation, and great clients (and great donors) are worth the effort.

Several of my colleagues thought, Great. I’ll teach and I, too, will get clients. So I introduced them to the people at the organizations where I teach, they do a workshop—and get annoyed when clients don’t immediately follow. So they decided not to offer their time and expertise again. I think that is short sighted. After all, I just got asked for a proposal from someone who took a workshop of mine six years ago and I pretty regularly get calls from people who took a class or know someone who took a class and recommended me.

Money—be it fees a consultant earns or a charitable gift to your organization—comes about as a result of the activities you do. And the more you connect a prospect (donor or client) to you and your organization, the more likely they will want to support you.

This is not to say that your story isn’t important. It is. Of course it is. People have to care about what you to want to be involved—just as people have to have a need for my services to consider hiring me. But it is not enough to tell someone what you do. You have to show them, connect them to the work, connect your work to their needs and interests.

And once they connect with you, you must continue to connect with them. It is this linkage that creates strong bonds. With them, you can be successful. Without them, you are like the consultants who hang out their shingle and wait for clients to flock to them, until, at last, they close their doors.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity and create stronger boards. Learn more at While there, don’t forget to sign up for the monthly newsletter and take advantage of the free 30-minute consultation.