The Nexus of Fundraising: Be at the Center of Your Organization’s Relationships
One of the more persistent problems nonprofit fundraising professionals face is how to increase year-over-year results when it appears you’ve explored all avenues and tapped all opportunities. In these situations, savvy professionals should consider whether they have taken sufficient steps to establish themselves as a nexus for their organizations.
What’s A Nexus?
A nexus is a connection or link—a relationship between people or things. Practically speaking, a nexus is the hub at the heart of a wheel, the center around which all other points revolve. While this image may at first seem peculiar in the context of nonprofit fundraising, establishing yourself as a nexus for your organization can pay enormous dividends.
The Limits of Third-Party Ambassadors
The task of identifying and prospecting donors and support for an organization can appear overwhelming, often leading fundraising professionals to solicit the assistance of third-party ambassadors who might advocate on behalf of their causes. I thoroughly advocate the use of ambassadors where prudent, as these individuals can prove to be invaluable assets, assisting you with everything from making introductions to prospective donors to helping your organization develop programming.
Too often, though, fundraising professionals cede to the ambassador authority and responsibility for their connections. This approach leads to three problems:
1. It assumes the ambassador has the capacity and capability to perform the job for which you were specifically hired, an unlikely circumstance even in the best of cases.
2. It assumes that the ambassador’s relationship with your organization is permanent. But if the ambassador’s relationship with your organization is ever compromised or terminated, you lose both the ambassador and his or her relationships.
3. It fails to take into account possible information deficits. Even the most well-armed and best-intentioned third party is unlikely to have available to him or her the range and depth of information to which the fundraising professional is already privy, by virtue of primacy to the organization. The fundraising professional is better positioned to ask and answer questions than a third-party ambassador.
The Benefits Of Nexus-Thinking
The savvy fundraising professional recognizes that a third-party ambassador is exactly that—a third party. Consequently, authority and responsibility for relationships should vest in the fundraising professional, and you should always look to establish yourself as the nexus for any new relationship, except in the most unusual circumstances. Establishing yourself as the nexus for your organization’s relationships can prove invaluable. Among other things, it:
• Allows you the opportunity to interface directly with a potential supporter, to court the supporter on a one-on-one basis, instead of relying on the efforts of a third party.
• Can help you better manage communications and requests for support, as direct contact with a prospective
donor or supporter is far and away superior to indirect communication, whereby messaging can be compromised or lost.
• Affords you the opportunity to facilitate the creation of additional connections between yourself and others not connected to your initial contact.
• Helps you add value to your organization’s supporters, as you can use your position to facilitate connections between supporters with no preexisting direct relationship.
Of course, the value is directly proportional to your investment. Making yourself the center of activity, but failing to follow through, will yield predictable results. Still, the potential upside is enormous, and the limits of a model driven by third-party efforts are obvious.
Every professional is different, and evaluating how to apply the advantages of nexus-thinking should be performed on a case-by-case basis, accounting for the pool of supporters, the nonprofit organization’s structure, and the time and resources available to the professional. But taking it upon yourself to become the nexus for your organization’s supporters can pay off in a number of ways for your nonprofit. And it can be a game-changer in a results-driven market.
Tarsha Whitaker Calloway serves as vice president of philanthropy for Tessitura Network. For almost two decades, Tarsha has helped nonprofits develop fundraising, board governance and fundraising strategies to further their mission. Tarsha has directly led efforts to raise more than $50 million for the nonprofit organizations, including the Woodruff Arts Center, Emory University and the American Cancer Society. She frequently presents locally, regionally and nationally on fundraising; organizational and board development; and diversity and philanthropy.
Outside of work, Tarsha has a monthly column in NonProfit PRO magazine and is actively involved in her community, including board of trustees for Destination Imagination, board of directors' executive committee for Leadership DeKalb, board of directors for National HBCU Hall of Fame and former board chair for Atlanta Shakespeare Theater. Tarsha holds a master's of business administration in international business from Mercer University Stetson School of Business and a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and theater from Texas Southern University. She also holds certificate in current affairs fundraising from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University and a certificate in diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace from South Florida University.
Tarsha resides in Atlanta with her husband and son.