Whether you’re a nonprofit or a small business, investing in expert advice or coaching can be one of the fastest ways to supercharge your success. But—and this is a big but—only if you find the right coach.
If you’ve ever worked with a meeting facilitator, you know just how critical finding the right match can be. A bad facilitator can make awkward meetings worse, getting in the way of creating any sort of consensus. Whereas a great facilitator can bring out the best in participants, helping people align around shared outcomes.
The same applies to selecting a coach or consultant for you and your organization or business. The right match can help you leapfrog ahead toward your goals. The wrong match can set you back months.
So how can you find the right coach for your needs?
1) Get Clear on Your Coaching Goals
Before you can choose a coach, you need to understand what your goals are. For example, are you:
- A nonprofit executive director looking for support as you navigate rapid organizational growth?
- A staff member at a nonprofit organization interested in starting a consulting business?
- A nonprofit leader looking to brush up on your management skills, particularly as a new generation enters the workforce?
- An experienced nonprofit consultant looking for new ways to grow your business?
Once you know your goals, you’ll be able to home in the right type of coach for your specific needs.
Funding for Good has written before about what to expect when selecting a strategic planning facilitator, and many of the same expectations apply when selecting a coach. For example, you’ll want to understand each potential coach’s process, style, and methods.
2) Finding the Perfect Coaching Match is a Bit Like Blind Dating
Blind dates are at the heart of some of today’s top reality TV shows and popular columns for a reason. They are gripping to follow! Two strangers, awkward conversations, snap judgments and, if viewers and daters are lucky, a lasting match.
Finding the right coach is a similar process. You’ll start by creating a list of potential coaches—often sourced through referrals or even Google searches. You’ll review their online information if available (just like daters might learn a couple key facts about their date, such as where they live and what type of work they do). Then, you’ll reach out and connect directly. This could be over email, phone, or video call.
Not every coach is right for every person.
As you engage with potential coaches, always keep in mind your goals and what type of experience you are looking for. Consider:
- Coaching Philosophy: Coaching styles and philosophy come in an incredibly wide range. For example, some coaches will get into the nuts and bolts of what you’re trying to accomplish, helping you identify, test and evaluate new tactics. Whereas other coaches may focus on guiding you to understand underlying emotional or behavioral roadblocks that may lie between you and success. As you can imagine, these are very different coaching experiences. When assessing potential coaches, consider their philosophy and which approach will best help you achieve your goals.
- Communication Style: Are you looking for someone who will help you pull out your own best ideas, keeping their experiences mostly in the background? Or are you looking for a coach who’s willing to share their own failures and successes so you can learn from them? If you’re newer in your role—such as a new manager or a nonprofit consultant starting a new business—you may want to find someone who can share their depth of experience and create an environment where you feel comfortable trying out new things.
- Familiarity with Your Sector: Ideally, you’ll want a coach who is familiar with your sector, the scale of your organization, and the goals you’re hoping to accomplish through coaching. Of course, you won’t always find the exact match. For example, if you’re an executive director in a small nonprofit (or a consultant to smaller nonprofits), a coach who’s worked with both small businesses and mid-sized nonprofits may be a good fit. When interviewing coaches, ask yourself: Does this person have the depth and breadth of experience to help me see my own work, behaviors, leadership style and/or career path in a new way?
- Scope and Timing: Many coaches will propose their own iterations of what a coaching program looks like. For example, the coaching program may last two months or four months. You may have calls once a month or every other week. When interviewing potential coaches, be sure to understand the details of what the engagement will look like. Like many things, the more you put into your coaching experience, the more you will get out of it. So be sure the proposed schedule is something you can commit to.
3) Budgeting for Coaching
Especially as a small nonprofit or small business, the cost of coaching can seem significant. But when you find the right coach for you, the return on investment for coaching can be significant.
For example, if you’re a nonprofit consultant looking to grow your business, your coach can help you test out new strategies to find ideal clients and even raise your rates. If you’re a nonprofit executive director, a coach could help you hone your leadership and management style, enabling you to ultimately reduce staff turnover (which will save your organizations tens or even hundreds of thousands).
The Benefits of Coaching for Nonprofits and Small Businesses
Whether you call them a coach or a consultant, once you find the right person to work with, the benefits can be incredible. You’ll be able to clarify your personal and professional growth trajectory, start building targeted skills, and meet your goals faster. And you’ll be able to bring fresh insights to your work. Plus, having an expert problem-solver on speed dial is priceless.