Executive directors. CEOs. Especially those of you who have had a hard time keeping good fundraisers around.
Just for you, here’s a list of Do’s and a Don’t
Do trust them
Essential to any strong relationship is trust. And trust is also crucial to a staff person being her most creative and effective.
If you find yourself second-guessing your fundraising staff, stop and think: who really has the expertise here? If your fundraisers don’t, find training for them instead of questioning their ability.
Trust their intentions, too. Fundraising takes a great deal of energy. If you ask your staff to use that energy trying to please or appease you, you’re throwing money out the window.
And if you want your fundraisers to buck the trend and stick around longer than a couple of years, trust is key. (And you should hope for that – the donor relationships they build suffer when they leave.) If you grow to trust each other, you will work well together. And every nonprofit staff person is looking for that satisfaction.
Do respect their work life balance
This is part of trusting your staff, too. Even in a nonprofit, people have lives. You want people to have lives, because they will bring so much more to their work.
Don’t depend on office “face time” to evaluate a staff person’s dedication or effectiveness. Some fundraisers should often be out of the office – especially those dealing with corporate giving or major giving.
Set up evaluation metrics together and revisit them annually. Do you care if your staff person is in the office or if she’s producing results?
Give people with outside responsibilities (like family obligations) time to handle them. Does that appeal need to be written in the office, or does it need to be written well? If it’s written at 9 pm after the baby is asleep, does it matter – so long as it works?
Encourage people to have lives outside the office. And model that behavior yourself. No one can bring their best to work if they’re worn thin.
Do let them learn
Not every new idea will work – or will work the first time. Don’t punish smart experiments. Learn from them and grow. If your fundraising staff know that learning (and sharing) is valued in your organization, you will have people more willing to be creative.
Give them work time to attend useful conferences. Don’t give them odd looks when they’re watching webinars or reading. Learning is crucial work for fundraisers – things are changing as fast as we’re learning!
And hey, consider a budget line for learning. Don’t expect fundraising staff to personally fund the learning they’ll use to your organization’s benefit.
New ideas need room to grow. And room to goof sometimes, too.
Don’t leave staff guessing. And don’t ghost on them when they need you.
Yeah, I know, we can be a pain. Signing letters. Call reminders. Information about donors you need. But it’s all important.
If necessary, set up standing short meetings. Have your staff bring their questions to you then. (And don’t grouse when they also bring you thank you letters to sign!)
Don’t forget there’s a lot of information your fundraising staff need. Share it without being pressed. What you’ve heard about a board member. What a donor said to you at an event last night.
All is information fundraisers need if they’re to build relationships well.
Do let them lead
Your fundraisers are your fundraising experts.
Your chief fundraiser gets the last word on all fundraising decisions. Hire people who know what they’re doing – then let them do it.
You have a tough job. There’s no doubt about that. But don’t let your anxiety lead you to step on your fundraising staff. You’re in this together!
Build a culture of philanthropy in the organization
Fundraisers can’t work effectively in isolation. They need to know the entire organization has their back. After all, everyone depends on the work they do.
It’s easy to departmentalize. Easy for your finance staff or program staff to decide fundraising is weird (it is, sometimes) or hard (it is, often) and to distance themselves.
But if the organization’s leader insists that philanthropy is a core value, you begin to build a different organization. One that throws open doors and invites people in. One where staff from all areas share the joy of sharing the mission.
But it starts with you.
Don’t expect miracles
If you’ve hired one fundraiser and expect that person to oversee all fundraising, bring in new donors and handle events and grantwriting, too, you’re setting up both your fundraiser and the organization to fail.
Wanting it all is understandable. But it’s not possible.
Instead, begin with priorities before you hire. What is most important to the organization?
If you already have a fundraiser whose list of responsibilities is too long, you need to talk. Create your priorities together. Play to her strengths. Plan to increase staffing or hire outside help – if not today, then tomorrow. (I don’t mean “wish”, I mean plan. Put it in the budget. Figure out how you will get there.)
Fundraisers also need funding. Don’t skimp on a good CRM. Don’t cut their budget and increase their goals. Don’t expect them to create great results on no budget.
Fundraising isn’t magic. It’s just lots of hard work. And even fundraisers are only human.
When you work on building a solid relationship with your fundraising staff, you’re making a smart investment in your organization’s success.
Want to raise more money? Give them what they need to succeed.