1. How does our “not-for-profit mission” align with your construction company’s core values?

Choosing a construction partner is perhaps the most important decision that is made by an owner in the pre-construction phase of the project. The general contractor/construction manager (GC/CM) should have a culture and set of values that directly supports or is relatable to the mission of the charitable organization. When a GC/CM can draw a direct connection between its own charitable mission and the charity itself, the GC/CM, led by management, garners companywide support leading to the needed focus, effort and passionate execution of your project. Simply put, an aligned GC/CM will care more than a construction company with nonaligned ideals.

2. Would your company consider getting involved as a volunteer or board member with our not-for-profit on a long-term basis?

Highly reputable construction companies often seek to maximize long-term relationships with community partners and would be amenable to volunteering or becoming part of your board. The benefits are twofold: 

  • When a CM/GC understands your organization’s people, processes, current facilities and objectives well, it translates into a higher probability that your new or renovated facilities will meet your organization’s long-term needs. 
  • The construction company now has “skin in the game.” There will be a heightened emphasis on quality and ensuring that the building is done right the first time. An ownership mentality versus a one-and-done attitude can be a valuable asset.

3. If you are hired as our GC/CM, how will you apply the energy and resources needed to plan and complete the project as required?

It is critical that the GC/CM dedicate the necessary project oversight and direct management resources so that the project does not trudge through either the preconstruction or construction process. Too often, not-for-profit projects get less than the needed attention from a GC/CM for any number of reasons, including perception that the project is less critical, is less of a money maker or comes with less threat of owner backlash. The reality is that through proper communication, vetting and expectation setting with qualified GC/CM organizations, the project can be planned, constructed and completed in a manner that meets the stakeholders’ expectations.

4. How does your pre-construction approach accommodate flexibility and multiuser input, knowing that you will be working with numerous stakeholders and that our fundraising is not complete?

Working within tight time frames and tight budgets often becomes even more challenging when working with fundraising groups, expected, yet unknown, donor requests, management groups, outside groups, building committees and board members within a not-for-profit organization. A GC/CM that has experience working with other not-for-profits will know that your process requires a thoughtful project leader who will allow for lots of input while simultaneously driving progress. The GC/ CM must recognize that the pre-construction process may be clouded with too much input, not enough input or conflicting input and that its role is to help focus the groups and their energy toward clarity of direction while providing clear information and answers so timely decisions can be made. The GC/CM will also emphasize that the not-for-profit has a responsibility for timely decision making in order to ultimately secure project success.

5. How will you manage outside donated construction materials and/or labor?

A challenging issue for GC/CM companies is how to manage goodwill items that can be offered from stakeholders, volunteers and well-wishers to assist with the construction of a new facility. This may come in the form of donated building materials, labor or even help connecting the not-for-profit with businesses that could offer assistance. This takes focused effort and energy to determine if what is offered is applicable, usable or desirable; however, it can provide surprisingly positive and impactful results to the bottom line.

6. Do you have relationships with vendors/ suppliers that could help our project save time or money?

There are times when a GC/CM may have trusted or valued relationships with subcontractors or suppliers that could provide benefit for the project. The trust between these companies is often driven from the aligned values they share and, if this is in fact the case, it provides an opportunity for the subcontractor or supplier to stand behind a cause that fits with its own organization. This support could come in several ways: design or engineering contributions, material or labor donations, or simply direct involvement with the day-today support of the not-for-profit. 

S. Brent Baker