For our second EUConsult interview we talked with Francesca Mineo. She shared her experience about consultancy and what it is like being a consultant for Group IFC. Francesca told us about her successes and also challenges that needed to be overcome while working with her clients.

Can you briefly say something about yourself?

As director of IFC Italy, Italian branch of Group IFC – International Fundraising Consultancy based in London, I am a consultant for nonprofit organizations mainly on strategic communications and fundraising. With both Italian and international network of IFC consultants – based on our flexible business model – we are used to work alone or in teams, according to the clients needs.

Before consulting I have been working  for about 10 years within organizations, predominantly in the field of international development cooperation. I am living in Milan, wife and mother of a Chinese born child.

What does consulting mean to you?

Consulting has been an evolution from my previous positions: after many years within the NPOs – it was about 13 years ago – I needed to change the perspective and trying to work from another point of view, helping the organizations to achieve their goals in a different way.  So I decided to go to London to train and understand the world of consultancy to adapt it to the Italian market. From that time I realized that it turned out to be a good shift for me: my skills, my previous experience, my knowledge of NGO’s internal dynamics were a piece of value for the organizations. Today, I keep on working in teams, as I did when I was employed, but from a more ‘neutral’ position and point of view: I feel free to help the organizations in understanding their plus and supporting them in impacting positively.  Beside, for me there is always room to improve.

Some organisations think that they don’t need consultants – why have you been hired?

In most cases, direct knowledge or word-of-mouth between clients was the way I started or maintained new counselling. In general, as Group IFC we try to establish a professional relationship based on mutual esteem with organisations: a friendly approach that probably pays off in the long run.

What has been your biggest success as a consultant?

The success of counselling can be measured in many ways, depending on the goal to be achieved. For me being successful as consultant means working with a good team of people – consultants and people from the organization’s staff with whom we work for many months together: a precious time in which conditions can change, problems arise, motivation may drop so it occurred to me many times – even recently – to be asked for advice from organizations tired and frustrated by the negative effects of Covid-19. I gave, at the same time, support and professional help: my  external, ‘neutral’ vision was necessary, since the client was feeling like it hit a dead end.

A recent, successful consultancy is referring to the management of big donors (HNWI) and to the developing of an online auction.

Would you like to share something that did not succeed?

Sure! My failures in counseling – or consultancy not returning the expected results – are always an opportunity to understand or to better address the next client.  Although it is not possible to generalize, I recall an example, involving an organization where the ‘old’ board liked the idea of having a consultant but rejected the fact that a radical change was needed. I tried in many ways to guide them in a different directions, respecting their heritage and characteristics, but the difficult relation with management and the staff did not help and I failed in facilitating this process. Today the organization merged in a bigger NGO so probably it was a ‘hopeless’ case, but, as consultant, I am still feeling a bit disappointed with myself!

What type of organisations are your main clients?

I work for small or medium NPOs, if consulting with my Italian network of IFC Italy consultants; sometimes I work for international NGOs or UN agency together with IFC UK or other directors.

What did you learn from the Corona pandemic? 

Learning keywords for me are change and flexibility.

I am still learning actually, since things are getting better, from some point of view but on the other side I do not feel pandemic is over: we are suffering from effects of restrictions but fears, though times  – from job losses to health effects due to illness and lockdowns –  may come in the near future.

I have learned to be even more flexible, in my personal and professional life, to be open to change and challenge, ready for the unexpected. I learned to give things more value, to pay more attention to time management, jumping from one Zoom to another, every day.

As consultant I learned to relate to different organization’s needs, due to the different reaction to the crisis: some have changed rapidly, others are doing it now. Since the first lockdown in Italy, on March-April 2020, I managed Communications & fundraising campaigns mainly online, changing all kind of relations to donors and being successfully in any case.

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