By Avrum Lapin
When we read a job description, it seems like this line is usually tacked onto the end of the list of responsibilities … seemingly just for good measure. While this might seem like a line to favor employers who want to create more flexible positions, it also is often used in place of more specific language. For nonprofit professional leaders and managers, that line can mean a whole host of things, from helping out at events to stuffing envelopes.
What could be there instead of a general line is: “Active and ongoing development support.” Each member of a nonprofit professional team must be actively engaged in the development process as an integral part of their role. This means that no matter their primary function, each person shares the responsibility for fund development.
Many of us have worked at nonprofits when a staff member has declared, “Oh, that’s not part of my job, I don’t ask for money. The development office does that.” So, what does the development department actually do? Why are they not narrowly and specifically responsible for raising money? Well, the quick answer is that they DO lead the way to raising money. They research and cultivate volunteer leaders and donors, and they actively ask for funds, every day, and in so many ways. They also write grants; oftentimes, many grants. They track gifts and pledges, create and manage budgets, plan special events and make sure that donors are properly thanked and recognized. They also create annual fund appeals and multi-level communications to and with donors.
Isn’t that enough, you ask? In smaller organizations, the development department may be one or two people. The task of identifying donors and expanding giving is too much for one person to handle. Support is needed from Board and professional leadership, other staff and volunteers. However, even in larger nonprofits, it needs to be everyone’s responsibility to help.
Why is fundraising EVERYONE’s job? Fundraising does not mean simply the act of asking for money. It involves cultivating relationships with donors and fostering a shared purpose and belief in the organization’s mission. By working together on resource development, a team can contribute far more than one or two people can do alone.
It has been said that fundraising is a team sport. Working as a team is an opportunity to share knowledge that will help the development process. If a Board member hears information about a donor and passes it along to the development staff, then together they can decide how best to proceed. Working as a team allows an organization to play to best strengths and offer support.
Additionally, working as a team creates a multi-layered and multi-channel approach to donor relations. Development is an ongoing process that could take some time to show the full desired result. By potentially connecting with Board members and leadership, as well as several staff members, in the process of development, a donor has the opportunity to interact with the organization on many levels. Perhaps the donor has lunch with a field worker who is implementing a program that the donor sponsors. Learning about the impact their gift has made first hand could be far more powerful than hearing about it only through the filter of a development person.
Working as a team allows the nonprofit to learn the interests of the donor from varying perspectives. The more opportunities that a nonprofit has to learn about donor interests, the more closely funding opportunities can align. Perhaps a donor hears there is a need for a new playground from the preschool director and the donor decides to dedicate new swings, apart from their regular annual giving. A brief chat over coffee might reveal information that a donor was willing to share with one staff member and not another.
Sharing responsibility for fundraising mitigates the risk of all of the relationships being with one person and makes it about the organization and what it does. As we have previously written, there is a real danger of losing donors, volunteers, or weakening ties to the organization, if only one person conducts donor relations. The relationship should be between the donor and the organization, not simply the donor and the development officer or staffer.
Knowing the importance of fostering a shared sense of responsibility when it comes to fundraising, the next step is to consider how to engage the Board and staff in these efforts. The question therefore becomes, not if, but how can staff and Board members support fundraising efforts? There are several ways. They can:
- Share names of friends and family who might be interested in supporting the nonprofit.
- Open their home for donor events and small gatherings.
- Sell tickets and sponsorships to events.
- Elect new members to the Board.
- Help recruit volunteers. Volunteers who dedicate their time to an organization are likely to also make a financial contribution.
- Make time for donor meetings and face to face interactions.
- Writing thank you notes for donors’ support. A note from a field workers is often more valuable than one from the development team as the field worker can explain the true impact that the gift has on their ability to serve the community.
- Directly ask for support.
Communication is key to fundraising. While a representative in customer service might hear a great story of how the nonprofit impacted their life, that story becomes exponentially more valuable if it is shared. A good way to show impact with donors is through these stories, so the channel of communication must be clear to ensure that the stories get to the right people to become content. The development teams needs to know what is happening throughout the organization, to know what is needed and what is working.
In fundraising, success is a numbers game. The more touches to a donor, the more likely they are to give. The more people being asked, the more likely it will be that the donor base will grow. By engaging the entire staff in the process of fundraising, it increases the probability that donors will continue to be engaged and support your valuable work in the community.
We are interested in your feedback and responses. Let us know your thoughts.
Avrum Lapin is President at The Lapin Group, LLC, based in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, a full-service fundraising and management consulting firm for nonprofits. The Lapin Group inspires and leads US-based and international nonprofits seeking fund, organizational, leadership, and business development solutions, offering contemporary and leading-edge approaches and strategies. A Board member of the Giving Institute and a member of the Editorial Review Board of Giving USA, Avrum is a frequent contributor to eJewishPhilanthropy.com and speaker in the US and in Israel on opportunities and challenges in today’s nonprofit marketplace.
Visit our website: www.thelapingroup.com
All rights reserved.