Most fundraising professionals have very specific goals—how much to raise by when. In contrast, I have worked with very few nonprofit organizations that have meaningful goals for program directors, human resources personnel, marketing personnel, and others. Everyone would benefit (including our clients) if we would demand the same level of excellence from all staff that nonprofits are pretty routinely demanding of development professionals.
I wanted this week to write my blog not about how organizations can hang onto fundraisers but how fundraisers can avoid going to work in impossible situations in the first place. It’s tough for fundraising professionals to ferret out the truth in the interview process because everyone is going to tell you that their culture is fantastic, that their workplace is pleasant (“we’re all one big family,”) and that goals are reasonable. Here are 8 questions to ask to get to the heart of the matter…
Clean data: It doesn’t sound sexy. Yet, without it, you are wasting time and money. Here are some great reasons to spend some time on your donor database.
…I believe the concept of a culture of philanthropy or the lack of one is a useful idea for understanding whether or not an organization is ready to begin and sustain a development program.
However, I also believe that part of how receptive an organization is to a development program has little to do with how it feels about fundraising and more to do with how it feels about change.
A FUNDRAISING PROGRAM’S SECRET INGREDIENT: A PLAN
In fundraising, there is no silver bullet, no pixie dust to sprinkle, no incantation to chant and the only potion I’ve ever known anyone to brew entailed a strong portion of tequila. I own two wands, both pink and sporting Disney princesses, but I suspect neither contains any actual magical properties. Fundraising is about relationship building, hard work, and a good plan.
In fact, according to the Third Space Studio, it’s a whole lot more about the plan than we may have realized in the past.
I’ll never forget. It was Christmas at my first Director of Development job. It was actually the second nonprofit I had worked for, but the first one I had ever served as the director of the fundraising program. I was also the first full-time director of development in the organization’s history. The organization, a children’s shelter, received a large portion of its donations for the year from its end of year campaign. I felt a lot of pressure that first holiday season to succeed.
In response to an appeal letter I had mailed, one donor called and asked to come visit. Of course, I readily agreed. We sat in the living room of one of our buildings talking and then, he asked me (!) how much he could give. He got out his checkbook and waited for me to give him a number. This, of course, is a fundraiser’s dream.
The problem was, I was such a novice at that time that I sat there pretty much frozen and didn’t know what to say!