Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Still here, Back to work, Answering questions

Thanks to all my readers with being patient through a summer of irregular blogging, including this last three week silence. Vacation time is necessary to recharge the batteries, and I spent a portion of that time in Maui, and the rest of it catching back up on my work. Things should be getting back to "normal" and regular posting over the next week or so.

Yesterday I was meeting with a new potential client and we had the usual conversation where I asked the details of their programs and fundraising, and they asked me about rates and deliverables. Then, one of the women I was meeting with asked a question I'd never gotten before; "Have you ever turned down a client for ethical reasons?"

I think what she was really getting at was, will I work with just any organization, or only those I believe in. And the answer is certainly that I'm picky about with whom I work.

I've responded to a couple of inquiries from potential clients with a polite, "I'm busy, why don't you try..." That's rarely happened, but yes, I do need to be able to believe in the organization I'm trying to help. When I do turn a client down, I do still try to be respectful. While I may not agree with their cause, I acknowledge their right to do that work... with another consultant.

Missions I don't care for are not the only reason I've turned clients down, or dropped them. Here are two examples of organizations I initially thought were good, that I later decided I couldn't work with.

One began positively enough, but the ED wanted several changes in the contract, and the long negotiations over that convinced me it would not be a good working relationship. I suggested to him that "perhaps this is not a good time, why don't we talk again in six months?" My feeling is that life is too short to work with people who bring you unneeded stress.

Another organization that I did contract with for grant writing kept switching who my contact was, and more importantly, what their budget was. It became clear that while they weren't necessary crooked, they were certainly not able to manage their finances properly, and I couldn't be sure that grant money I was asking for would be spent per the proposals I was writing. I ended that relationship quickly.

So, yes, I do have criteria. I have to believe in the cause, I have to actually like the people I'll be working with, I have to know that I can accomplish the task, and I have to be sure that the results of our contract (whether a grant or a strategic plan, etc.) will be managed properly. If those criteria aren't there, I don't want to waste my time or their money.

So, how was your summer?

1 comment:

  1. Turning down a prospective client must be a somewhat uncomfortable task. I just graduated from college, so at 22 years old I am definitely wet behind the ears. However, despite my inexperience, I can say with conviction that if you do not feel that a client is a good fit for you and your firm then it is not a good idea to accept the engagement. Any relationship, including client relationships, should have some type of "fit" to keep things running smoothly.

    By turning down a potential client that you do not feel comfortable working with you are strengthening your judgment of service quality and conviction over fees. In the end, being selective is a way of assuring that your client relationships are healthy for you and more meaningful for the clients that you accept. Like you said, life is too short to deal with unwanted stress.