The Boston Globe breathlessly reports here that nonprofits in the Boston area are discovering that program staff should be enlisted in the fundraising process.

Really?! Holy cow! What a breakthrough!

Observes the Globe:

“With competition for donor dollars growing ever stiffer, many nonprofit organizations no longer consider fund-raising and marketing the exclusive realms of development officers. As groups search for more creative ways to raise money, they are often turning to other members of their staffs to help pass the hat. This approach widens the circle of fund-raisers and, several nonprofits say, helps add to their coffers.”

If your development team hasn't yet figured this out, it's hard to decide who should be fired first … the development team or the balky program staff!

By far the best fundraisers in any nonprofit should be the folks doing the program work. As the Globe notes, “After all, staff members often do the work that stirs donors' passions, such as conducting cancer research, keeping the Charles River clean, or playing the violin.” Duh!

We emphasize “should be” because we realize that's too often not the case, generally for either of two reasons … program folks are just not “street-able” (they can't talk in plain english, present well, etc.), and/or they just refuse to get involved.

The latter should be a firing offence (at the very least, the CEO/ED needs to set clear expectations on the matter and include fundraising performance among key evaluation measures); unless you're dealing with a Dilbert, the former can be worked on.

Indeed, a key role of the development team should be to train and coach key program staff on how to “sell” their work. This coaching role is as important as such key development functions as — researching prospects, framing the case and ask, building cultivation programs and events, conducting competitive analyses, creating effective “sales” materials, and providing a strategy and structure for the overall fundraising effort.

Arguably, if the development team is actually doing the asking, versus orchestrating the ask, something is wrong.

The Globe gives the example of Gina Purtell, who runs a wildlife sanctuary for the Audubon Society and found herself dragged into fundraising. From “That's not my job,” Gina has progressed to “If I want the resources and I want to expand what we do, that means getting more money — and asking people for money doesn't have to be scary if I do it in my own way, even if it isn't a grandiose or polished approach.”

That's the spirit! And for it, Gina, you deserve a raise!

Roger & Tom

This article was posted in: Major donors, Nonprofit management.
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