Finding the Right Professional Partners for Your Mission-Based Organization

Team Meeting

Mission- or value-based organizations—such as philanthropic organizations, non-profit colleges or universities, social service organizations, charitable foundations, and other not-for-profit entities—have additional considerations when looking for professional services partners. It’s not just about who can do the work best, but also who aligns with their brand and core values.

Professional services partners can include any external consultants, such as accounting firms, HR consultancies, marketing agencies, or architectural design firms. Many firms can do the technical work your project requires and do it well. But assuming multiple partners have the expertise, how do you determine the best partners to guide and execute your vision?

When talking about architectural and engineering design in particular, it’s about more than just drawing walls, windows, and plumbing systems. To achieve a successful design outcome, you need a team that puts your mission first. They must understand your priorities and what you need to achieve for those you serve—and how your physical facilities support that.

This ensures your final product won’t just be pretty, but it will be highly functional, provide a great user experience, achieve your objectives, stay within your budget, and help you get closer to the ideal future state of your organization.

Here are a few questions to ask, either in an RFP (request for proposal) or interview, or simply in your own research and due diligence process:

  • Does this firm have shared values with your organization?
  • How do they demonstrate these values?
  • Why do they want to work with you? (Because work is work? Or because of a bigger picture?)
  • What types of projects do they typically pursue?
  • What other types of clients do they work with?
  • How do they intersect with your mission or community? (i.e. What volunteer work or sponsorships do they participate in? What causes do they champion? What is their mission and vision?)
  • Have they ever worked with you before? Why or why not? (Hint: answering “no” isn’t necessarily a deal breaker.)
  • Is there a future for partnership with you beyond this project? Why or why not?
  • What would it say about your organization to partner with this firm?

A good professional service partner can also identify when they are not the right fit for you or for a particular project. Their proposal approach will seek to demonstrate how they align with your organization, or will work to uncover if they do align. It will be less of a sales pitch and more of a visionary collaboration.