In part 1 of this series on the culture of philanthropy, we identified some of the signs that could indicate that your organization is working against your fundraising success. So what if some of these signs resonate with you? What can you do about it?
At the heart of every organization are its people. They create the culture and determine the direction that the organization takes, so if the people are not bought in to the fundraising process, then raising funds will always be an uphill climb. The key, therefore, is to encourage buy-in throughout the organization, from the Board onwards.
In an ideal world, everyone within the organization would understand and appreciate that fundraising is part of their responsibility, but in reality, this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes a more strategic approach may need to be taken for fundraising to have more of a priority. Here are a few tips on how you can put a process in place to build an environment where your fundraising can thrive.
Find out what the barriers are
Before you can encourage buy-in, it is crucial to understand why you don’t have it in the first place.
Stakeholder consultation can be an excellent way to learn what people’s motivations, fears and resistance might be with regard to fundraising. The process itself, if led well, can also provide an opportunity to start to educate and explain what fundraising is, what it involves, and the role that people can play in supporting it. Once you know what barriers you are facing, you can much more easily develop a strategy to change the culture.
Essential to success, however, is that consultations are confidential so that participants are able to be truthful, otherwise you may never get to the bottom of the problems that are standing in your way. You may be surprised to find out what some of the concerns might be. Sometimes they are not fundraising related at all! Over the years I have heard a range of responses, from staff not truly believing in the work, to board members not feeling that they know the work well enough. Most often, there is the fear that they will be forced to pressure their friends to donate.
Have the right ethical policies in place
Buy-in often comes from a sense of trust between stakeholders and the fundraising team, where people believe that the fundraisers can be trusted with their contacts, as well as feel assured that the needs of the beneficiaries are at the heart of everything that you do.
One way to overcome some of these concerns is to have strong ethical standards in place that govern how fundraising operates. I once worked with a human rights organization where the program team believed that in order to fundraise, beneficiaries were going to be portrayed as people to be pitied. In an organization that was all about empowerment, this was understandably a real concern.
To assure your board members, program staff and others that you put the beneficiaries interests first, consider putting in place some policies and procedures around fundraising that ensure that you can and, more to the point, are willing to be held up to the highest ethical practices. Of course, what is included within these policies will vary from organization to organization, but they will usually cover how beneficiaries are to be portrayed (from the language used to the images included within materials) to who you are willing to accept funding from.
A good place to start in developing your ethical standards is to look at guidance from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, such as the Donor Bill of Rights and the Code of Ethical Standards and consider how policies like these can be adopted within your organization.
Help people to understand the opportunity and the risks
In a similar way to how you might demonstrate funding need to your donors, for example, through a Case for Support, consider how you can also demonstrate the need for fundraising to your staff, board and other relevant stakeholders, so that they can fully appreciate how important fundraising is in making your organization tick.
Through a board-focused, or staff-focused, version of the Case for Support, you can help to improve their understanding of where the funding comes from for different programming, and what it means for the organization’s future development. While doing this, use the opportunity to help your colleagues to understand how their role fits in the process. Also take some time to understand their challenges in doing their job and how your expectations might be affecting them.
Whether your staff member is responsible for answering the phone to donors, or for collecting stories to be used in the Case for Support, with better communication and comprehension of each other’s needs, you can begin to work together more effectively to support each other’s goals.
Enable your Board and staff to experience the fundraising “warm and fuzzies”
A wonderful way for donors to become more connected with the organization is to have the opportunity to meet other members of your organization’s team, from program managers to board members. This also works the other way around – give your program staff the opportunity to meet the donors so that they realize how much of a joyful process fundraising can be.
This doesn’t mean that you need to drop your colleagues into the deep end of fundraising by expecting them to ask for money right away (if at all)! Start by inviting them to meet some of your warmest donors and to be part of the stewardship process. Through such engagement they will learn that fundraising is far from transactional, and is very much about building a strong relationship between the organization and the donor, where the donor has an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution in the world and is thrilled about doing so.
Have in place a fundraising strategy that suits the organization
Nothing builds enthusiasm for fundraising than success and success comes from having the right strategies in place. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve gone into organizations where staff and Board members have told me “we tried fundraising before and it didn’t work”. This is definitely bad news for creating a culture of philanthropy in your organization!
However, in my experience, in many cases the reasons for these “failures” was down to having the wrong strategy, or worse still, no strategy at all in place. What it takes to make fundraising successful will vary from one organization to another. It depends upon their goals, priorities, resources, capacity, funding need (short and long term), case for support and so many other factors.
One size really does not fit all. For example, in an organization that has very limited resources, an urgent funding need, and very few donors or contacts, a reliance on a direct mail program might not be the best option. If, however, they have a strong, high level network and a powerful case for support, major gifts or grants might suit them better.
Celebrate your fundraising success together!
Most importantly, when your fundraising efforts are successful, make sure you all join in with the celebration! Nothing builds stronger collaboration and teamwork than success that is earned together.
So remember to reach out to all those people who play a part in the cultivation process, from those who answer the phone on a daily basis to the people collecting the stories that you use in the Case for Support. Let them know that their efforts made a difference in securing the future of the organization and the communities that benefit from it.
By celebrating together, you can all experience the joy of fundraising!