publication date: Mar 8, 2017
author/source: Mena Gainpaulsingh
Fundraising rarely works well in a vacuum.
The most successful fundraising shops have a team approach to fundraising and donor engagement. These are organizations that have a strong culture of philanthropy, where everyone is playing a role in helping the fundraising to thrive. Here are just a few of the main roles and responsibilities that different people can play in fundraising for your organization.
Your Board of Directors
Board engagement in fundraising is important for successful growth. Not only does Board support for your initiatives mean that they are more likely to be successful, it also means that you can spread the workload, reach more deeply into the community and have a greater impact on the people that you meet. Specifically, here are some of the ways your Board members can get more involved:
- Thanking donors in person, by letter, email and by phone. This is probably one of the easiest and most fun ways Board members can get more involved with the fundraising process. Not only does this mean that your organization can reach more people with its stewardship efforts, donors love hearing from those in leadership positions.
- Acting as the organization’s representatives at your and other people’s functions and events, and being true champions of your work. This includes knowing and understanding your Case for Support and being prepared to talk about it with people that they meet.
- Following up with donors and prospects that they know or have met. This isn’t so much about asking for money. It’s much more about them building on an already existing rapport so that the relationship can move forward.
- Opening doors to people who they think might be interested in knowing more about the organization. Again, this isn’t always about asking for money, but exploring with their contacts if they might like some further engagement with the organization, from attending a meeting to coming to an event.
Sometimes, to make an ask. This is most often what Board members are afraid of, but in my experience this is typically because they don’t understand the right process and circumstances behind an ask. The ask for funding should only happen in the right circumstances, at the right time or the right project and most importantly, the ask should be carried out BY the right person. If your Board member is not that person, they might be better suited to just open the door for others to walk through.
Your Executive Director
More often than not, and in smaller organizations in particular, the Executive Director is heavily involved in fundraising. In some cases, they ARE the fundraiser, doing everything from writing grant applications to direct mail copy. Even in organizations with well-established fundraising teams, there are still a number of important tasks that your Executive Director can carry out to ensure that your fundraising is successful. These include:
- Ensuring that the fundraising strategy, and your Case for Support, are properly aligned with the organization’s strategic plan. When this is not the case, a number of issues can arise. For example, the style of fundraising being adopted might require a long lead-in time when in fact you need to raise funds more urgently, or maybe the Case for Support is asking for funds that are not actually a priority for your organization.
- Like with Board members, the Executive Director should be representing the organization at functions and events (including public speaking). As the main figurehead, donors often expect to see them out in the community, spreading the organization’s message and being seen as the thought leader in the issues that the organization seeks to address.
- Participating in donor stewardship (particularly with major donors) and working directly with the team to manage and support donor relationships. Again, this is often an expectation of donors, and major donors in particular, who want to connect with people who are the main decision-makers in the organization.
- Being the fundraiser’s champion! There is no doubt that fundraising is a tough job and fundraising is seen as a “necessarily evil” in some organizations. It is therefore crucial that the Executive Director both understands what the role entails and supports the fundraising team in their goals, particularly in front of other staff. Since fundraising success is so dependent upon the input of others, from program staff providing beneficiary stories to reception staff passing on donor messages promptly, having the Executive Director’s backing to get this support is essential.
The program staff are hugely valuable to fundraising. In organizations where there is a strong culture that supports fundraising, program staff might be involved in a number of ways, including:
- Helping to collect stories and data to support the creation of the Case for Support. They may even play a role in helping to identify champions amongst the organization’s beneficiaries who are willing to share their story more personally, such as at events and testimonials.
- Of course, we don’t know that the organization is having an impact unless we measure for them. Program staff are therefore essential in helping to design, adapt and implement monitoring and evaluation systems that are able to regularly collect information that can demonstrate this impact and is of value to donors.
- Helping with donor stewardship, from sending personal notes from the field to donors (especially with international development organizations where the connection between the donor and cause is more distant) to meeting with donors directly.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. There are many people in your organization who can and do provide support with fundraising, and in ways that extend beyond the ones mentioned here. The key to success is in managing these relationships effectively. In part two of this series, I will share ideas on how you can build a great team, and how the fundraiser plays an important part in supporting others in your organization to become more engaged in fundraising.
About the Author
Mena Gainpaulsingh is a fundraising professional and consultant specializing in fundraising strategy and management, from capital campaigns to grantwriting. She is the founder and CEO of Purposeful Fundraising, a consultancy firm that supports organizations to strengthen their fundraising capacity and to raise more money. You can reach Mena at firstname.lastname@example.org.