My question is — Why aren’t we also trying to get the staff involved in fundraising?
So, the more people you have on your team, the more supporters you can build relationships with, and the more money you can raise.
Nothing earth shattering here, I realize, but stick with me…
One of the reasons nonprofits often give golf tournament fundraiser ideas for why their fundraising efforts aren’t more successful is their board. And you’re right that having the board engaged is important.
At the same time, the board isn’t the only group that can help.
My interest in this topic was sparked by the seven years I spent building and running a full-staff fundraising program. Now I help other nonprofits set up programs like this as part of my consulting practice.
Here’s what I’ve found to be the main benefits…
- More collaboration and less silo-ed departments. Development staff will understand the program work better. And, program staff will understand fundraising better. Everyone’s work will be strengthened because you’ll have a better sense of all the moving parts within your organization.
- More money. Having more people to help with fundraising means you’ll have stronger connections with more of your donors. And that will lead to more revenue.
- Group ownership over your income and expenses. If you’re part of bringing money in the door, you’ll feel more invested in whether or not the organization makes budget for the year. And you’ll think more about how funds get spent.
So, how do you start to build something like this?
Clearly, you can’t just announce at your next staff meeting that everyone is now going to be fundraising as part of their job. I’m sure you can imagine how well that would go over!
You need to build a culture of fundraising before you can think about people playing a more direct role.
As an aside, let me say that even if you don’t end up piloting an all-staff fundraising program, it’s important to have a culture of fundraising. So most of this is worth thinking about even if your nonprofit has a more traditional structure.
Okay, back to business…
Here is how you lay the groundwork for an all-staff fundraising program.
- Get buy-in from the Executive Director, the Development Director and any other key staff who others look to for their opinions. Your organizational leadership must be behind your idea to try this new model. If the ED believes that the fundraising staff should be the only ones doing any fundraising, then this grand plan isn’t going anywhere.
- Start breaking down those walls between your fundraising and your programs. When you’re doing major planning or strategy work for either, have both perspectives in the room. Program planning will be stronger if done with an eye toward fundraising. And fundraising will be more effective if done with an understanding of where the program staff is coming from.
- Put fundraising on the agenda at all your staff meetings — if it’s not already. Talk about where your money comes from. Report on what’s been raised and pledged, and how much you have left to raise to meet your goals. Discuss any trouble spots or potential funding issues you foresee so everyone knows the situation and can help solve it. Or at least not be surprised by a large donation falling through.
- Teach all staff to read and understand your budget and key financial reports. Allowing everyone to know what your income and expenses look like is a critical part of the big picture understanding that people need to have.
- Give people space to talk through their fears and anxieties about money and fundraising. These feelings are very real. They need to be addressed and validated. Then you can introduce some new ways to think about fundraising.
- Re-define fundraising and help your staff understand that it’s not all about asking for money. This is something you’ll have to help people un-learn over and over. When fundraising is all about the asking, it’s understandably something that people aren’t too excited about. But when making thank you calls or going to a donor meeting to talk about the work you do is fundraising, then it’s much more possible to see yourself being part it.