A. James Minehart, PMP
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Top Five Myths about Being a JCA Consultant

We’ve all been there. Maybe at a party. Maybe meeting your friend’s spouse. On vacation. In a stuck elevator. At the top of El Capitan.

When I tell someone I work for a consulting firm dedicated solely to the technical and operational needs of nonprofits, a look of confusion is the most common response. “What technical needs does a nonprofit have?” “You mean like IT for charities?” “I didn’t know there was a job for that.” I explain how we help our clients increase revenue, optimize operations, and build lasting relationships with their target audience by improving their relationship with their technology. Then I’m usually asked how I became a consultant.

I had my reservations about leaving my position at a small liberal arts college in Portland, OR, for the unknown world of consulting. I’d worked with a handful of consultants over time, but never had a feel for what life could be like as one of them. When I thought of consulting, I envisioned the “Bobs” from the movie Office Space. My imagination told me all consultants lived out of suitcases year-round and were constantly trying to get clients to spend more money.

“I had reservations about leaving my position at a small liberal arts college in Portland, OR, for the unknown world of consulting. I’d always envisioned consultants as “Bob” from the movie Office Space.”

It’s time we debunk these myths once and for all. 

Myth 1: You’re not connected with the cause.
We know our clients love what they do, choosing to work where they do because they care about the cause. Whether it’s saving the planet, healing sick kids, or educating the masses, our clients know they’re doing good work to advance the mission of their organization. Well, at JCA we care about those same causes. We help our clients reach their potential by embracing our core values: accountability, honesty, respect, and excellence. We support the missions of our clients. And the best part is, we work with hundreds of them. This means our consultants help advance all sorts of causes.

Myth 2: You have to know everything about everything.
Consultants exist because no one can do everything. And when it comes to supporting the technical and operational needs of nonprofits, let’s just call that a niche. Clients hire JCA because of our expertise in a particular niche. Every JCA consultant has a particular set of skills and no two consultants are identical. Although we like to think we’re smart and can solve any problem, we don’t actually know everything. The best consultants are the ones who balance what they know with the strengths of the company. We learn from each other and share our experience to make one complete firm. 

Myth 3: You’re a Road Warrior.
Yes, most consultants travel for good reason (see Myth 2). It’s nice to feel wanted. Honestly, though, there’s no formula to answer the question, “How much will I travel?” At times, it could be a lot. Other times, it could be hardly at all. There are projects at JCA where a consultant could be onsite four days a week for a couple of months. Other projects are all done remotely. It really depends on the client, the project, and who’s available. We don’t want to burn out our consultants so we look for ways to make everyone happy and successful. That being said, if you absolutely hate airports or have an intense fear of flying, being a JCA consultant is probably not for you.

Myth 4: You need to ABC (Always Be Closing).
My biggest fear in becoming a JCA consultant was that I would be expected to sell our services. When I accepted a promotion from tele-fundraiser to database manager from my first employer in this industry, I vowed never to “sell” again. I thought consultants always had to be looking for ways to upsell clients or identify new leads.

In reality, great work sells itself. A JCA consultant is expected to do great work, not make sales. There’s no sales quota. You won’t be asked to take a lead and close a deal. Simply put, it’s not the type of work we do.

Myth 5: You can’t be yourself.
As a consultant, you make a lot of first impressions. But the most important impression is the one that lasts. You get to know your clients and they get to know you. Being yourself is key to building lasting relationships. Now, that doesn’t mean to just let it all hang out. But having a personality is what got you here in the first place. It’s important to let your personality show through the work you do. 

So what do you want to do?

My life as a JCA consultant has been an interesting one. I’ve flown to London with just a few days advance notice. I’ve seen how long I can grow a beard between client visits. I’ve checked into a hotel in September and checked out at Thanksgiving. I’ve gone through more hoodies than suits.
This is not what I had in mind when I joined JCA. And I’ve loved it all.

JCA is looking for new consultants. Are you a good fit?

Senior Consultant, Blackbaud CRM

Consultant, Blackbaud CRM Experience Preferred