Calling All Agents of Change
A few months ago in Tucson, Ariz., I got a shot of reality — and humility, I should add — as I listened to a group of colleagues discuss emerging challenges in nonprofit fundraising. There were several “a-ha” moments.
The DMA Nonprofit Federation brought together about 100 direct-response fundraising leaders and commercial partners to dialog about our industry at its Leadership Summit in early June. We heard keynote speakers from our country and the United Kingdom, and then reacted and brainstormed in small groups.
That’s when it hit me: The right people — CEOs, board chairs, and marketing and communications directors — weren’t in the room! Others agreed with me.
Addressing the challenges we identified at the conference will require significant changes in nonprofit organization governance, management and fundraising. I wish we’d had a few of these high-level leaders sitting with us, because the changes necessary to propel our sector forward will require these folks to be agents of change.
What follows is a summary of what I gleaned from the Tucson dialog. I hope this list will prompt dialog inside your organization. And when you’re done reading, you’ll probably conclude as I did, that we’ve been talking about this stuff for many years.
1. Vision and mission statements must describe end results and the values our donors hold dear. A passionate statement of desired results and values will attract like-minded supporters and advocates. Agreeing to talk about desired accomplishments and values instead of ourselves will require strategic alignment with your CEO, board of directors, and marketing and fundraising staff directors. Not an easy chore.
2. Silo management must be stamped out. Silo management causes inconsistent messages, internal disputes over who gets credit for donations, and failure to take advantage of funding opportunities. It robs organizations of energy and passion. I know several nonprofits that have taken bold steps toward eliminating silo management. They’ve created marketing and fundraising councils where planning, resource allocation and campaign planning happen at the same table. These organizations aren’t fighting over who gets credit for gifts. They aren’t sending out inconsistent messages. The marketing and communications, major-gifts, and direct-response leaders are working together to accomplish positive things for their organizations.