Member Expert: Norton Philanthropic Counsel

By Melanie J. Norton, CFRE MBA, Founder & CEO, Norton Philanthropic Counsel | | 3.10.22

Help! Consultants as Strategic Partners

Aspire Economic Development + Chamber Alliance

The hardest yet most important word for any leader to say is, “Help!”

If you’re in charge of a board, a team, a company, or an institution, or even just making long-term decisions that will affect your family, you need the help of objective outside experts.

When I was leading a team of fund-raising professionals as a university vice president, I found myself turning again and again to a wide array of colleagues at other institutions and in other industries to tap into their experience. I often went further, hiring professional consultants to help me determine the needs and strengths of my team and seek out new priorities and new directions.

Professional consultants are invaluable to any leader. Among their advantages:

Objectivity – Ask an employee for their opinion and they will probably tell you what they think you want to hear. Or, they will tell you only what they can see from their position in the team structure. An outside consultant looks at the full structure of your organization and tells you the truth about what they see. As guests they can find pluses and minuses that you and your team may miss.

Expertise – Professional consultants arise from lengthy and distinguished careers in their field of choice. In choosing a well-qualified consultant you enjoy the benefits of adding a well-seasoned industry veteran with an enviable CV to your team without the costs (and risks) of adding a new, permanent employee.

Creativity – The help of someone with a depth of personal experience and a breadth of professional experience can be invaluable. A good consultant doesn’t just bring their own work history to the table, they also bring insights from every other client they have worked with. They can provide you with new and creative ideas and introduce best practices from across the spectrum of your peers.

Relationship – Good consultants are rarely just a temporary fix. They become an addition to your toolbox. Consultants normally form long-term relationships with clients, which helps them learn the history of the organization and provide even better assistance over time. The issues which are first addressed by your consultant will never magically go away; they will change or develop, and you will always need the good advice a qualified consultant can provide.

If you are a leader facing next steps for your organization, handling intractable problems, looking for better ways to organize and inspire your team, or just hoping for a better tomorrow, you need to consider a professional consultant. Don’t be afraid to say, “Help!” It’s what the best leaders do!


Melanie J. Norton has a long track record of strategic planning, team leadership, and fundraising consulting experience. She founded Norton Philanthropic Counsel to help clients develop and execute strategies that lead to goal achievement and success. She can be reached at