Have you ever felt your organization’s development staff were hidden away?
Maybe on a different plane of existence? Doing strange work normal people wouldn’t understand?
I feel strongly about this: development staff must be accessible. Internally and externally.
Your work might be specialized, but it’s integral to your organization’s success. (Unless you are fully funded by magic. In which case, you’re not likely to be reading this.)
Out of sight, out of mind
This is what happens when organization leadership discounts the importance of fundraising. Or, sometimes, raises the work beyond what the rest of the staff does. Either way, it’s bad for fundraising results.
Fundraising as an idea can make people uncomfortable. So it’s easier to stash the folks who do it somewhere out of sight. Just send the checks, please, and don’t bother the rest of us.
At one organization in my past, it was suggested that the development staff be moved down the block. By ourselves. This would be handy for leadership, as we wouldn’t be able to request their time. We wouldn’t have immediate access to the organization’s work as it happened, either.
I refused to move my department.
Your fundraising people are only people. They’re not magic. They’re not separate from the organization’s real work. And what they do isn’t embarrassing. They need to be part of the daily back and forth in the office. They need those relationships as much as they need external ones.
The rest of the staff needs the fundraisers there, too. They need to be part of the celebration when a generous gift or grant comes through. Your colleagues need to see how fundraising staff relate to the outside world. And they need to see how their story is being told. And they need to help tell it.
If you’re a fundraiser, make it part of your work to be a part of the rest of the organization. Helping colleagues trust you and your work will mean better access to the information and stories you need.
As a donor, I find it infuriating when development staff can’t be found for questions or updates.
Have you ever searched a website, desperately trying to identify the person you need to speak or write to only to reach dead end after dead end?
This is not cool. And it’s likely hurting your fundraising.
If you are a fundraiser, you are responsible to the public. You need to be available to your donors and others who are interested in your organization’s work.
In the first post I wrote for this blog, I recounted a frustrating experience. I sent a memorial gift after a friend’s mom had passed. The organization responded by sending me a branded card to send to my mom’s friend. (Yeah, no. That’s supposed to come from the organization, right?)
But my frustration with that ham-handed tactic only increased when I discovered no way to connect to anyone in fundraising. After much sleuthing, I finally found a number for a call center. The person who answered passed my complaint along.
What if I had been calling to give a large gift out of the blue?
Or what if, as my friend Clay Buck tells it, a recurring donor passes away and the family can’t find anyone to help them sort things out?
When a donor bothers to get in touch, even with a complaint, they’re signaling interest.
Make sure you can be easily found. You can develop internal systems so you can get your work done. But seriously, every call or email from a donor is important. The people who bother are the people who care. Shouldn’t you care enough to respond?
Nonprofit work is about being public. We can’t do our work alone. That’s why we ask people to join us. Every person we talk to about our mission is a potential ally.
Why disappear from sight?
Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash
Pamela Grow says
Another great read, Mary. Fundraising is fun. Fundraising is beautiful. And fundraising is integral to the success of your organization. It’s time to quit treating it like it’s somehow dirty or shameful.
Mary Cahalane says
Richard Freedlund says
You brought up a topic that has been a mystery to me for some time; the lack of contact information for development staff, especially on an organization’s website. Sometimes the website will have contact info for the ED or perhaps a program director, but many give their donors no way to contact the development department, and donors with questions, comments, or complaints have no idea how to reach them. I don’t think these organizations have any idea how much they are losing out when they don’t publish contact information.
Mary Cahalane says
Yes, exactly! If your office work is so important you don’t have time to talk with a donor, you probably need to re-evaluate your job.