(Team) Building Blocks
[Editor's Note: Recently, FundRaising Success Editorial Advisor F. Duke Haddad submitted a story intended to guide development department heads in the tricky process of finding the right people to build a successful fundraising team. It's a straightforward look at the special qualities required to really nail the duties of specific job titles.
It immediately reminded me of a blog post by global fundraising and management guru Bernard Ross that outlined roles that needed to be filled in any organization looking to cultivate change within its ranks to best optimize its fundraising efforts. Bernard is all about shaking up the status quo and not letting anyone, anywhere, get too comfortable. In the ever-changing and challenging landscape that is fundraising today, keeping things fresh is as important a goal as raising specific amounts of money — only not as easily defined.
Because they highlighted the important building blocks in the process of creating a vibrant, high-functioning team, the two stories seemed to be a good fit. — Margaret Battistelli Gardner]
Building Your Fundraising Team
Whether you’re new to a development leadership role or a seasoned executive, you must consider personnel issues. Much like a football coach who takes over a team, think about each part of the organization and how the pieces fit together. A fundraising coach knows that success depends on a total team concept. Each fundraising organization has elements of governance through its board of directors and administration with executive leadership and staff. These various individuals must execute strategic and operational plans for success to occur.
Directing a fundraising team is difficult because, in many cases, staff stability is an unknown. According to a survey by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the average tenure for a development officer is 18 months, and his or her median salary is upward of $60,000. Many organizations find they cannot afford that payroll expense. At the same time, an individual needs at least one year to completely understand the organization’s history, culture, and key internal and external players. A leader needs time to evaluate the staff makeup to seek a blend of experience, diversity, skills and personalities.
A leader of a fundraising organization needs good “people skills,” excellent relationship skills and a global vision to understand how all development functions fit together. You also need good organizational techniques and the ability to review, understand and analyze best-of-class examples. Each fiscal year builds on the previous ones with metrics created for time, talent and treasure. Donors, gifts and dollars are important, but so are increasing the number of volunteers, recruiting new board members and evaluating the quality of programs to determine if you should continue them.
As Christopher Cannon, managing associate at fundraising and development consulting firm Bentz Whaley Flessner, notes, fundraising staff generally should have communication skills, technical aptitude, numeric aptitude, fundraising appreciation, multitasking priorities, discipline, creativity, action orientation and collegiality. Fundraisers should be service-oriented, and it’s especially important that they understand the organization’s mission, vision and culture.
Each staff member has unique needs and wants but must be a fit for the organization. An individual might have technical skills, for example, and while not understanding the arts, religion, education or health fields, might relate perfectly to a human-services organization.
Organizations sometimes have staffs that are too young and inexperienced or too old and inflexible, or staffs that are out of sync with donors, volunteers or the individuals that receive organizational services. The ideal team includes male and female members with varying levels of experience.
Fundraising success “comes down to people,” says William Moran, founder of The Moran Co., which specializes in nationwide executive searches for fundraising and development staff, executive directors, and other senior nonprofit positions. Different types of fundraising require different types of staff skills. According to Moran, a successful nonprofit staff includes attributes that encompass a regional residence to know the population served; passion for the mission; self-starter tendencies; history of productive fundraising; ability and desire to get out of the office; annual-, major- and planned-gift fundraising experience; listening and promotional skills; ability to work with volunteers; and individuals with collaborative work styles. Employees should be inclined to stay on the job for at least five years!
As you build your fundraising team, view fundraising as a community effort. Make sure each staff member has the education, experience and ability, as well as the desire, to be trained in new roles based on the organization’s changing focus. It is also imperative that staffers understand the pyramid of giving and how the elements of annual gifts, major gifts, planned gifts and development services relate to each other.
As you look at your total fundraising program, determine the general attributes that each staff member needs in his or her area of responsibility.
Annual gift/program staff needs to have a variety of skills and abilities for special events, direct mail, online giving, white mail, special-gift personal solicitations, and programs to generate new and upgrade existing donors. Many of these skills are transaction-oriented on an annual basis. Staffers who work with annual gifts need:
- Attention to detail.
- High energy.
- Experience with marketing tools.
- Ability to process a variety of tasks at the same time.
- Enjoyment of working with volunteers.
- Knowledge of website and online tools, texting, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.
- Ability to interact with corporate CEOs and staff.
- Multitasking ability with speaking, writing and engagement expertise.
- Ability to promote philanthropy as a team sport internally and externally and the role annual gifts play in the big picture.
- Understanding of how to promote the organization’s brand and mission.
Major gifts/planned gifts involve more complex fundraising for larger gifts over time for more specific purposes or legacy-type gifts. Employees in this area need specific abilities, many of which are transformational and may take several years to generate optimal results. They include:
- Ability to create a portfolio of prospects through identification, solicitation, cultivation and stewardship.
- Ability to be a “hunter” with a desire to achieve specific financial goals and objectives.
- Understanding of organizational priorities — knowing when to ask for a gift of assets today or a planned gift tomorrow.
- Ability to speak and present, as well as listen.
- Understanding of and desire to build relationships.
- Passion for the organization and knowledge of where major and planned gifts fit.
- High ethics, trust in and love for the institution.
- Compassion, experience, servant leadership and a positive attitude.
- Technical knowledge and ability to work with financial professionals and connectors of prospects, professionals and organizational representatives.
- Sensitivity to the needs of others and ability to work with individuals of all ages, while being a program builder and storyteller.
The “heartbeat of the staff” must process a variety of tasks to keep the team running forward. Many of the skills that these staff members need are complex and integrate transactional and transformational functions. They include:
- Ability to understand the “sales” team roles and functions, and what it needs to be effective, such as translation skills.
- Comprehensive knowledge of the database and how to keep this information fresh and relevant.
- Knowledge of how to provide different types of research to different staff members.
- Ability to direct portfolio meetings for each staff member in annual gifts, major gifts and planned gifts.
- Experience in grant writing, data management, donor recognition and use of technical information.
- Personality traits that include keeping staff accountable for timely thank-you letters and cultivation/stewardship correspondence.
- Experience in reviewing best-of-class trends and ways to maximize revenue and expense.
- Attention to detail with ability to manage and maximize systems.
- Success in providing reports and information for presentation to prospects, donors, staff and volunteers.
- Positive attitude and meeting priorities in a timely manner.
In summary, a development team leader should understand each staff member’s role and purpose. The leader should know each individual’s needs, desires and long-term career goals; introduce activities to maximize productivity; and promote continuing education and training so the entire staff knows the overall goals and objectives of the team. No silos are allowed.
Staff leadership is fluid. A leader must be flexible and able to adjust staff as needed for each fiscal year. Think in terms of establishing holistic program elements, even if you have a small staff. Building and maintaining your fundraising staff for the long term provides a constant challenge. Be prepared, flexible, fair and consistent — and treat others as you would like to be treated.
Remember, it is never about you. It is about them! Success is both a top-down and a bottom-up process.
Building the Groundwork for Change
An ability to constantly adapt to and manage change is critical to a nonprofit organization’s results, and key to developing that ability is helping individuals and teams feel engaged, confident and committed.
The more I help in change settings with NGOs, the more I feel changes in organizations can’t happen without specific kinds of support — especially if it’s a challenging or radical change.
Managers and board members have a vital contribution in promoting and then maintaining the change. As part of this, they can take on a number of roles that may be different from those they normally play.
But how do you choose a role? The model I feel is most appropriate for change situations is one we’ve developed from an original idea of Dame Rennie Fritchie, U.K. public décor management guru. The model argues that in any change process you need key individuals — senior managers, board members or even external consultants — to act in specific ways. These roles are based on a Wild West wagon train metaphor. The idea is that change — and particularly radical change — is like the Wild West during the colonization period: huge opportunities and huge risks in a relatively unknown and fluid situation.
My seven change roles are pioneer, scout, wagon trainer, sheriff, homesteader, medicine man/woman and hired gun.
The pioneer is the person with the vision. This Grizzly Adams/Fenimore Cooper figure embraces risks and is determined to prove that the apparently impossible is possible … to head west, to reach the ocean, to travel upstream. Pioneers do the things that everyone else says they can’t do.
Pioneers have to be fantastically brave. They not only have to have strength of vision and intuition, but they have to be able to deal with hardship, difficulty and … scorn. Unsurprisingly, they’re often not good team players. Once they’ve established the change is possible, they want — and they need — others to carry it through.
Bernard Kouchner, who set up Medecins Sans Frontieres (aka Doctors Without Borders), was such a pioneer. Once it was set up, he then left. He needed others to develop and deliver the result.
Are you a pioneer-in-waiting? Do you need a pioneer to achieve radical change in your organization? Or do you already have an organizational vision to challenge the status quo and drive you toward breakthrough?
Every wagon train needs a scout. The scout’s job is to go ahead of the main wagon train and identify various opportunities and threats, such as sources of water, robbers, possible floods, difficult terrain, etc.
Sometimes organizations need a scout to go ahead and find out what’s advisable and what is absolutely not. “Ahead” in this sense can mean scenario planning, creating alternative options or even just risk analysis.
This often can be a role for outside consultants because they can bring a radical, disinterested view. It can also be taken by a new CEO or board member who doesn’t yet have the baggage of someone long serving, but does have the courage to sketch out possible futures raised by the vision of the pioneer.
The process of scouting is not an exact or certain science. But the key qualities for a scout are to be keen on risk taking, have courage, be able to operate alone and not feel isolated, and have experience of other relevant situations to build on. Members of the wagon train have to trust the scout. But remember the scout can only report back what he or she has found or his or her ideas. It’s then up to the organization to sign up to the degree of risk outlined.
Does your change process need you to be a scout? Do you have the qualities to do it? Do you need someone else to check out the concerns?
Every wagon train also needs a formal leader, aware of the responsibility vested in him or her, concerned for the overall good, and confident in his or her ability to complete the journey to a better future. This person is called a wagon trainer. Ideally the wagon trainer is taking a group of people on a trail that he or she knows well. You can trust a wagon trainer to lead you safely because he or she has done it before — maybe not over this exact terrain but something pretty similar.
What you’re getting with this person is experience. So an NGO may use a CEO or board member to guide a change that the wagon trainer encountered in a previous position.
The key qualities, then, for wagon trainers are essentially experience, experience and experience. The wagon trainer also needs a commitment to the safety and interests of the group, and the skill to know when to use a scout to check out the risks. A wagon trainer will generally take the safest option — the one that minimizes risks. Note that you mustn’t confuse scouts and wagon trainers. If you are committed to having a wagon trainer, then make sure you’re getting real, relevant experience.
Often in the Wild West you need the benefit of a sheriff. This person is responsible for laying down laws or ground rules for the wagon train once it stops and sets up camp or stays in a town. In change processes, individuals may bring all kinds of wild and zany ideas to fruition. These may work at the time, and maybe they’re appropriate. But people also need some stability and — after a period of dramatic change — to calm down a little and have some rules and structure.
The sheriff’s role is to administer the law — the systems and structures that are necessary. He or she also ensures everyone is treated fairly. The sheriff may have to do a number of things:
- Keep the charity within the law — literally — in terms of things it does.
- Make sure organizational discipline is maintained.
- Act as a focus for inevitable dispute resolution.
Key qualities for a sheriff are wisdom in applying the rules, a desire to avoid confrontation (but not afraid to do so if necessary), and a sense that he or she is a law enforcer, not a lawmaker. It’s worth noting that when the sheriff and the CEO/chair are combined, they sometimes confuse their will or opinion with the law.
We worked with a homelessness charity that had just lost its wildly charismatic — and disorganised — CEO after five years. Five years in which the organization had grown, gained credibility, attracted good people. But it was not sustainable. The new CEO said famously, “I’m not running a hippy commune here,” and began to lay down the law in terms of systems and organization. A painful process — but necessary.
Sheriffs are needed to create some stability. Remember even in the wildest Wild West towns there had to be some laws and justice. Make sure it’s clear who is in charge of interpreting the rules and making sure things are interpreted properly.
The homesteader is the Jimmy Stewart figure who wants to develop the new community, put down roots and create long-lasting infrastructure. He or she might not be the most exciting person but will spot what works and build on it.
This is a key role once a new level of performance has been reached. You should think about employing the role of homesteader if people need a stabilizing force or to create enough structural stability to allow people to try for new performance goals.
Key qualities for a homesteader are a desire for stability, skill in organizing and shaping people’s energies, and willingness to play by the new rules.
Homesteaders are often underrated in change processes. (And they may be opposed to the change initially.) But you should use them wisely to keep the real process of momentum going.
Who’s buying the cakes in your office and looking after morale?
Medicine man or woman
Traditional approaches don’t always work, and sometimes you have to try a bit of magic. (Remember British science fiction author, inventor and futurist Arthur C. Clarke’s famous quote, “Any kind of science, sufficiently advanced, looks like magic.”)
The medicine man or woman provides this. He or she may be a consultant, a new board member with great fundraising contacts or an innovative CEO with new ideas from outside the sector. In fundraising it may be the digital-media specialist with his or her promise of apps and tweets.
Whoever the medicine man or woman is, he or she has a secret weapon: a big idea or a new technique. And it is this that will produce results.
Medicine men and women can inspire people to produce extraordinary results. But they are, of course, fallible, and you need to be sure about them and their ideas. Whatever it is, they have to bring some magic with them to give people confidence their ideas or techniques will work.
Key qualities for the medicine man or woman are charisma and self-confidence, a “magic bullet” (real or imagined!), an orientation toward a practical outcome, and the ability to inspire confidence in others.
In the Wild West, you occasionally need some muscle to do a dirty or difficult job. This is the Clint Eastwood character in every man-with-no-name movie.
The hired gun is someone engaged specifically to weed out those who don’t want to — and won’t — sign up to the new breakthrough.
For this reason, the hired gun is generally an external consultant — someone who can come in, identify key elements to be changed, and often the people to be fired. He or she can have no friends.
The hired gun’s strength is the ability to do, to drive through, a difficult job. Key qualities for the hired gun are clarity of purpose, ability to work in isolation and a clear analytic mind.
Think carefully about hiring the hired gun. It’s a tough role. But be aware of the challenges if you try to do it yourself.
When you lead your change process, you may need to think about which role or roles you need to play. And how competent you are to play them. And make sure you also pay attention to the roles or responses that others display.
(For more about change management for nonprofits, see bit.ly/WKO9S3)
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy. He has maintained a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation for three decades.