I recently had the opportunity to attend the AFP Toronto Congress. This conference gave me a more in depth look at our non-profit organization and helped me to realize the true potential that lies within the organization. I will discuss some of my key takeaways from one of the sessions and how I feel they are best incorporated into the fundraisers role.
One key way to fail within your organization is to not have a strategic plan in place! Everyone within your organization, from employees to Board members should be able to name the Vision and Mission along with how you are going to get there. It is important to revisit your strategic plan every few years to establish whether or not your vision and mission still align with the key principles your organization is striving towards.
Another key way to set your organization up for failure is to have disengaged leadership. Disengaged leadership equals disengaged employees, directly resulting in lack of motivation and poor financial success. An engaged leader is self-aware, and is authentic. Good leadership is felt throughout an organization, as the “tone at the top” is primarily the attitude carried by the majority of the employees within an organization. “Leadership is not about being the best; it is about making everyone else better!”
Knowing the role of the fundraiser and having a clear job description are important keys to success, along with providing support and resources for your employees to succeed in their roles. Fundraisers require a seat at the table as part of the executive team; they need to be able to provide input and voice any potential concerns. Your fundraising team should never work on commission or be given incentives as too give donors the perception they have a self-interest in the ask.
Before you pick up the phone, or meet your perspective donor for the first time, do your homework. Do not apply your own financial filters on the donor and find out what your prospective donor’s intentions for donating are. Whatever information you can collect before meeting with your donor initially will be of benefit to your organization. Upon meeting with your donor, be sure to listen to what they have to say and once the ask is on the table be sure to wait and listen for their response.
When first approaching the donor, it is imperative that you have a cause for support. Having a cohesive voice and providing accurate and meaningful information to the donor is crucial. Tell the donor a story of “how” they can make a difference, and what their direct donation will provide for your organization or the cause. Lack of understanding of what you are asking the donor to support, is a sure way to get a donor disengaged very quickly.
Lack of stewardship equals a decrease in repeat donors! Sometimes fundraisers become so focused on the asking, that they forget about the thanking. Ensure someone from your organization is following up, this can be board members or staff members. Informing the donor of what was possible because of their donation is always a good way to provide stewardship. Providing great stewardship will help your organization become reputable within your community and earn donors trust.
Develop and nurture the art of storytelling with your donors. If staff and board members have pride in their organization, this feeling will flow through to donors. Communicate with their hearts versus their brain. There are a variety of sources to help you tell your organizations “story” so don’t be afraid to explore new and innovative ways of communication. People relate to people so show them “why” not “what” they are supporting!
Since I prefer to put a positive spin on things; I look at failures as “Success in progress”! I hope you will be able to use some of the points above to help you not just survive as a fundraiser but to thrive!
Stephanie serves as a City Councillor for Lloydminster, SK as well as working as a Community Development Officer for Lloydminster Regional Health. She describes herself as a mother, wife, nurse, daughter, friend, philanthropist, volunteer, fundraiser, dreamer, goal setter, humanitarian and lover of life!