Fundraising in a federated charity is a unique experience, whether you are based in the national office or a local branch/affiliate/region/insert-jargon-your-non-profit-employs-here. There is a unique learning curve to the job that goes above and beyond understanding the cause. In the year and a half I have worked at Habitat for Humanity Canada, here are the top five lessons I have learned:
The local-national one-two punch
While federated charities have their challenges, they present huge opportunities. Corporate partners in particular relish the opportunity to work with an organization that can provide national brand recognition while at the same time executing local campaigns. Be sure to highlight this in your proposals, providing case studies of successful partnerships whenever possible. Working closely with your local offices to ensure they are connecting with the local representatives of your corporate partners. Successful national corporate partnerships require a delicate balance of national promotion and local relationship building.
Honour and highlight this country’s diversity
One of the first lessons I learned fundraising for a federation is that the way things are being done in Toronto is never going to be the same as Montreal or Saint John or Vancouver. This can sometimes be a frustration, but this is also something that can be used to your advantage as a fundraiser. Donors and sponsors love supporting their home communities and knowing that they’re giving to work being done in their own backyards. The more that you are able to engage donors in the unique way your mission is being achieved in their community, the more successful you will be at fundraising.
The inverse goes for local fundraisers in a federated charity; be sure to always highlight that your work is having both a local and national impact. Donors want to hear that your organization is working to solve significant national issues.
Embrace being part of a cross-country team
That’s cross-country as in countrywide, not the running event, in case you were confused!
My organization has 54 offices across the country. I have the privilege of working with all of the Development staff (and often Executive Directors in smaller communities) often. Even though I may only see most them once a year at our national conference, I consider them very much a part of our fundraising team. They are subject matter experts on the needs and interests of their communities and that expertise is invaluable. They also may know information about a donor or corporation that simply isn’t available online but is well known locally.
Sharing is caring
Last and perhaps most importantly, remember, being in a federated environment means there are people across the country that are trying to raise funds for the exact same cause as you. They have written proposals, done direct mail campaigns and developed agreement templates. They have experienced difficult boards and staff turnover. Think back to the lessons you learned in kindergarten- share and ask for help! Every time my organization has a conference, I’m blown away by all that I learn and appreciate by sharing with my colleagues from across the country.
See the forest for the trees
There will be times where fundraising for a federation is frustrating or even infuriating. Anyone who has worked in this environment has had a day where they feel their hands are tied and can’t help but feel like progress is moving at a glacial pace. Take a deep breath and try to refocus on the bigger picture. Remind yourself that you’re doing important work to further a cause that you’re passionate about. Have honest, open conversations that focus on moving beyond pain points. Try to connect with fellow fundraisers who also work in federated charities, and of course commiserate with your colleagues.
Above all else, know that wherever you are, whatever your role, you’re part of a movement larger than yourself. If you keep asking yourself “What can I do to better this federation?” you’ll steer yourself in the right direction.
Hava Goldberg, CFRE is a proud fundraiser, community builder who is passionate about helping others. She is currently a Senior Development Officer, Major & Corporate Giving at Habitat for Humanity Canada.