Burnout in the fundraising profession is a constant concern. And the problem is only more pronounced at small, grassroots organizations. One way to reduce these feelings of burnout is to engage the entire team in the fundraising process. This helps the fundraiser(s) feel more supported and better equipped to succeed.
Support from leadership (Board and Executive Director) is vital, but today I want to focus on nonprofit staff’s role in fundraising.
At small nonprofits, you often see the basic organizational structure of the Executive Director and two major “departments” or teams: the program team and the fundraising team. These “teams” may be only one person, and they may cover a variety of functions. But by making a few simple changes in how the team operates, everyone can better support the fundraiser in doing their best work. This, in turn, ensures the fundraiser is supporting the mission-oriented goals of the team as a whole. Having the rest of the team support fundraising is truly a win-win!
If you are struggling to support your fundraising staff, there are several simple changes you can make:
#1: Commit internally as the organization’s leader to doing all you can to support your fundraiser in their work.
You shouldn’t ask your team to do something you would not do yourself. Before looking externally, take time to commit internally. Much of what follows will entail you to lead your staff to better support or engage with organizational efforts. To do this effectively, you need to be all in, too. So – take some time to think it through. How are you supporting fundraising currently? How could you better support it in the future? This may mean adding to or taking away from your plate. And if YOU are the fundraiser, this internal dialogue is still key. What is missing that would help you succeed when you are wearing your fundraiser hat? How can your team help with that?
#2. Consistently show how and why. How do their roles relate to fundraising success? Why are you asking them to complete a certain activity or task?
Now that you’ve done your own soul searching, it’s time to turn to the team at large. Don’t assume your employee will understand the importance of fundraising intuitively. Spend time discussing the how and why behind what you are doing as a team to raise funds, and the impact it makes on the organization as a whole. A great way to illustrate the how, the why, and the impact is to highlight a recent fundraising appeal’s success. What client story was used? What did the funds raised support? As your team gets more engaged in the fundraising process, formal training can be helpful, too.
People are hardwired to be more engaged when they understand the purpose behind what they are being asked to do. Use that to your advantage!
#3. Ask for their input. Take time to understand their interest.
This relates back to point number two, as well. If you can play to each employee’s strengths, you’ll go farther in spreading the fundraising love (and responsibility). Some employees may excel at interviewing clients for testimonials, while others may love to dig into numbers and data-crunching. USE those SKILLS!
It seems simple, but asking employees how they would most like to support the process can make a huge difference in the success of your efforts.
For full-team fundraising engagement to be sustainable, you can’t skimp on connecting the dots. Explaining the “why” and playing on each team members’ strengths will have your whole team working smarter. And they’ll feel more engaged and purposeful while doing it.
#4. Put fundraising in everyone’s job description – and mean it.
The key here is to not only bring this conversation up from the beginning with your employees, but to continue to put it into action. However your program team members support fundraising efforts, make it clear and formal. This may feel arduous, but whether it’s for a new hire or an existing employee, putting responsibilities into the formal job description offers a natural opportunity to have the discussions from points 2 and 3 above. The effort will be worth it in the engagement you see from your team members going forward.
What exactly you put into the job description will vary from team to team and person to person. Whatever it is and however you choose to define it, though, the key is to make it a formal expectation. Put it in writing!
#5. Discuss fundraising at every team meeting.
Are you sensing a pattern here? Like many of the steps above, the goal here is to help make fundraising something your whole team engages with regularly. At each team meeting, spend some time as a team reviewing your numbers. Discuss what is working well and what isn’t. Now – how, as a whole team, can you make efforts to improve in those areas you identified? What is one key task each team member can take on to make those improvements happen?
#6 Share in the wins and reflect together.
As you have been planning and executing together, it’s key to also share in the successes together. Congratulate the team together, and regroup together if things don’t go quite as planned. The team needs to feel recognized for going above and beyond to make this happen. Take some time to reflect as a team how far you’ve come since you put the new “all-hands” fundraising style into place. The proof of fundraising success will help your team see how this can help your organization grow for the long term and the impact their input has.
Ok all this makes sense… but what kind of “things” should non-fundraising team members be doing?
This is where only you will know best. I offer some ideas below, but your team can work together to figure out where you can spread out fundraising efforts in a way that makes most sense for you:
Ideas for engaging non-fundraising staff in fundraising efforts:
Calling to thank donors (bonus points if you can engage your program participants in this too!)
Providing “behind the scenes” content on social media to immerse your audience in the work your organization does
Developing content ideas, copy and images for donation appeals, thank you letters, media pitches and more
Identifying volunteers, program participants, or others they engage with that could support financially
Helping to brainstorm how to structure your fundraising ask. They know best what your program needs, and the transformation your program offers!
Engaging in strategic planning discussions and how those will translate to fundraising campaigns
Attending meetings with potential donors to offer insight into your organization’s mission & services
What are you taking away from this that you will put in place at your organization?
You can find me on social media or send me an email with the button links below. I look forward to hearing from you!
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