by Andrew Olsen, CFRE
Well, that’s not really a question my two-year-old daughter asked me. But it is a question that, over the last few months, a number of nonprofit development professionals and C-level executives have asked.
Interestingly, each person has shared a story about the frustrations they’re experiencing because of the Chinese wall that typically separates annual giving (i.e., direct mail, telemarketing, online giving, events, monthly giving) and major donor programs in their shops, and the angst that this causes. I’ve been surprised to hear that in many cases there is literally a belief that annual giving donors “belong” to the annual giving department, and that major donors are believed not to come from this pipeline. Instead the assumption is that major donors must come from contacts with other wealthy individuals, be they existing major donors, board members, etc. And because of this, relations inside many nonprofits are strained, and opportunities for increased revenue are missed.
Here’s why I think these problems persist . . .
Incorrect belief that major donors don’t “come up” through your annual fund program.
There’s a school of thought in the sector that suggests that major donors don’t come from within your existing annual giving programs. The logic would follow that if major donors don’t come from your annual giving program, why would you ever try to migrate donors from the annual giving program to anything else. Right?
I’m not certain where this school of thought began, but the data I’ve seen doesn’t support it. I’m not saying that all major donors come from within your existing file. Certainly your board members and other influential friends of your organization can introduce you to wealthy people who might have an interest in making a major contribution to your cause. However, gifts like this will be the exception, not the rule.
In his article, Is the Fundraising Pyramid Really a Lie?, Lawrence Henze, Managing Director at Target Analytics, explores this concept and provides an analysis of what Target Analytics has learned on the topic, and why you should in fact look to the existing donors on your file as potential major donors.
I’d also point you to two additional articles that would support this position. Using Your Database to Develop Major Donors, by Susan P. Orr, Founder & CEO of Telosa Software, and Major Gifts and the Internet – An Untapped Opportunity, by Vinay Baghat, Founder & Chief Strategy Officer at Convio both speak directly to this issue.
Compartmentalized fundraising programs
The second reason that I believe these frustrations surrounding major gifts come into play is that in many nonprofit development departments, the different fundraising programs are compartmentalized. Oftentimes the annual giving and major/planned giving departments are even directed by different people on the organization’s leadership team.
Rather than fostering collaboration and an atmosphere that promotes fully engaging donors to accomplish your organization’s mission, this compartmentalization instead fosters an environment of competition that often results in one group or another hoarding donors (and income).
These internal conflicts result in lost opportunities.
Donors lose out on the opportunity to make more significant impacts on a cause they’re passionate about. Your clients lose out on the opportunities that would have otherwise been created by greater donor investment. And your organization loses out because you’re working against each other to accomplish individual performance objectives rather than working together to maximize the impact you can have in your community.
How do we fix it?
First, throw aside your assumptions – assumptions of where your major donors come from and how your fundraising program should operate. Instead, follow the data. Look to your fundraising database and work with your annual giving and major gifts team to identify current donors who have the potential and the likelihood to make a larger impact on your organization. Then devise strategies for engaging these donors and motivating them to become more involved.
And second – learn to share. If you want collaboration and the benefits that come from it, you’ve got to approach your donor base and the funds that will be raised as belonging to your customers (or clients), and your shareholders (the donors). They don’t belong to the corporation (you). This may be tough to implement because you’re still going to need to measure your staff for the purposes of performance evaluations – and you can do that under a model like this. But you can also shift the focus and approach so that it’s a team-based effort and not an every person for herself mentality.
Archives for July 2010
At the risk of trivializing “good advice” I could NOT resist drawing upon the contrast of a poorly run company, TV’s Dunder-Mifflin, and an excellently managed not-for-profit organization.
MICHAEL SCOTT’s management style of the make-believe paper company’s sales office in Scranton, Pennsylvania has led to a recent job opening… HIS. Most people simply look at the distant, quirky, out of touch management style of Michael Scott, played by comedian Steve Carell, as funny, but the fact is, if your management style is unengaged, just like Michael, you too will be looking for a job or your charitable organization will be going out of business soon. Good managers are involved in problem solving based upon their life experiences. They are not afraid to get their hands dirty by getting on the front line and helping co-workers with serving those in need.
Managers who fail usually make themselves the center of attention rather than focusing on the needs and daily obstacles faced by their team members and those in dire need of help by their charity or ministry. Good managers direct daily activities based upon the solutions they are trying to accomplish in the lives of others, both the people they serve and minister to and the individuals employed by your group. Don’t be like Michael Scott, roll your sleeves up and led by pitching in and helping your teammates.
Now, let’s look at the other members of your team. Is the group you’ve assembled ready to serve and care for those in need by your not-for-profit organization or are they just punching the clock?
JIM HALPERT. Jim has demonstrated great creativity. He has served Dunder-Mifflin as both assistant sales manager and co-manager. Unfortunately, his most creative strokes of genius are not helping the company, but are focused more on embarrassing co-workers Dwight and Andy. If you have a Jim working for you, put him or her to work solving patient problems and being directly in front of those you serve. The Homeless, the needy, the underprivileged and all those your ministry serves will greatly benefit from his creativity. Do not let those with great creativity waste the gift on internal problems and “in-house” issues. Put them on the front line serving those in need and they will blossom each day with the beauty of helping others.
DWIGHT SCHRUTE. Mr. Schrute takes his authority to the extreme every chance he gets. He was the 2005 Salesman of the Year. His acceptance speech (ghost-written by Jim Halpert) was laced with quotes of Hitler and Mussolini. Of course, Dwight’s day-to-day office antics are not far from Hitlerisk and his endless brown nosing of Michael is so shallow that even Michael can’t stand it. If you have a Dwight working for you the worst thing to do is to NOT put them in charge of something… put them in charge of something important to those you are serving. You will then be using the ego of “your Dwight” to accomplish the right things for your organization. Most importantly, spurn the brown nosing and only give praise when this person does something to help those being served or a co-worker in need. Never acknowledge them for helping their up line or themselves.
PAM HALPERT. Every office has a Pam… the smart “girl next door” who does not like to make anyone mad for any reason. Pam’s only desire is to make everyone happy with her. She will go to any length to be everyone’s friend, but Jim’s antics and Michael’s stupidity constantly keep her in the middle as a peace maker. The “Pam’s” are hard to come by in the business world. Most of them are run off by the cynics and know-it-alls. If you have a Pam working for your charity, do not let her get away. As you build her confidence and leadership skills she will have the right balance of heartfelt empathy and acquired business acumen. Her co-workers will be positively influenced by her. Your patients, clients and others in need will be encouraged by her. Your major donors will be impressed with her stewardship and chose to invest more after seeing her in action.
ANDY BERNARD. Andy is by far the smartest employee at Dunder-Mifflin. He has an MBA from Cornell University and continues to use his text book techniques to make low dollar sales through “name repetition, mirroring and never breaking off a handshake”. He wears his emotion on his sleeve and can get mad at the drop of a hat. Of course, that is what precipitated his mandated anger-management classes. Poser’s like Andy Bernard struggle at both “getting along” with co-workers and connecting with those in need. However, the do not do a bad job in selling situations. If you have and Andy B. on your team, move them into donor relations and work to help them accept “who they are” and confront them when they start to pose or act like someone they are not. Andy Bernard will be your top performer if you can just get them to be at peace with who they really are.
The Office has provided me with advice whether in the form of silly office terminologies, funny one-liners or hilarious quotes that actually portray the messages of life. Sometimes these life lessons are as simple as that managerial skills or college degrees are not always what will get you promoted or help your non-profit organization the best. The most memorable life lessons The Office has taught us over the past five years is that it is our relations with people that matter most. How do we serve our co-workers and how do we meet then needs of those in dire need of the most basic necessities of human life like shelther, clothing, food and a place to sleep.
Our relationships with people are critical to our philonthropic and volunteer activities. Sure, go ahead and hang that degree on the wall and your vitae is in order, but understand what matters most is how we serve those around us.
Many people do not understand the essential role fundraising plays in running a successful not-for-profit organization. Fundraising is a whole lot more than a means to an end. Being a good fundraiser makes you a much better executive for your organization and community leader.
Fundraising gives you a chance to meet important people
Most of the people who can write you a check for $1,000 or more are people who you might never get to know if you were not leading a not-for-profit organization. They simply don’t have the time or inclination to have casual conversations. But many wealthy people have a compelling interest in their community and a strong desire to have an impact. You will feel lucky to have the most amazing group of new friends from people who are committed you your cause. They will have their own stories of how they got where they are today which will be fascinating and educating. If you want to be a leader, never lose interest in learning from successful people.
Fundraising Gives You New Insight and Wisdom
Major gift contributors can tell you a lot more than just how they got to be successful. Their collective insights probably include contact with every peer on their level of the success ladder. If they own a business they can introduce you to other business owners. If they sit on the board of a Fortune 500 company they can introduce you to other Fortune executives. If they are retired and begining to liquidate their estate to charity and family, they will know others who are doing the same. They will tell you about their experiences with with charities and non-profit groups. They will tell exactly how they want to help your cause if you will simply “shut up” and listen. With each additional contact your wisdom will reflect their insights and you will learn what types of thing you can do to earn their trust and support. Some you will agree with, some you won’t. The point is to soak up as much about their knowledge and network so that you will be “brilliant” as you run your organization.
Fundraising Builds Support from Local Community Leaders
Raising money builds supports and momentum for your charity or cause in your community. It sends a message that many people are supporting you and your cause. It makes others stop and take notice and builds respect for what you believe in. Leaders in your community pay attention to whom other leaders are giving to and supporting. Make sure you ask every elected official where you ministry or charity is headquartered for a contribution. In most states political campaigns can make charitable contributions. Of course, make sure you contact elected officials from BOTH parties. After you get a gift, ask them if you can use their name in order to contact others who have may have supported them in past elections.
Fundraising Builds Credibility for Your Cause
When people in your community see that you are having fundraising success they stand up and take notice. No one wants to be the odd man out, people will get involved, get out their check books and part with their money if they feel like it is a good investment. Demonstrating that you are a good steward and using donations “exactly” as they have been designated will lead to greater long term support. Do not be afraid to announce publicly when you have reached a fundraising goal or critical benchmark and in the process have key supporters on hand to quote or give a testimony about why they support you.
Fundraising today is very important to your future. As a leader of a non-profit organization you should be known for your stewardship, caring heart and your fearless courage in asking for additional support for your cause.