Tear Down the Silos!
FundRaising Success recently hosted its second annual Engage conference in Philadelphia and a mini-version of it in San Francisco, where nonprofit practitioners lamented the high cost of silos and discussed ways to overcome them for the benefit of your cause — and your sanity.
It’s a subject worth tackling. Silos can stifle teamwork, frustrate donors, inhibit innovation and cost you significant dollars in net revenue. They can, in turn, weaken your programs and prevent your organizations from having the impact you want to have.
And as they calcify over time, they can get even worse.
As our friend global management and fundraising consultant Bernard Ross says, “It’s time to barbecue some sacred cows.”
There are different types of silos that can harm your organization. Do any of the following sound familiar?
These occur when departments within an organization don’t communicate, cooperate and engage with each other for the benefit of the organization. Can you believe that some departments are reluctant to upgrade donors to monthly sustainers or major givers because they won’t get “credit” for their giving anymore? Have you heard major-gifts folks arbitrarily insist the direct-response people stop all communication with donors over $5,000 — even if the major-gifts team doesn’t have the staff to personally cultivate those most important donors?!
Solution: Put the donor first — organize your donor marketing programs around the donor. Let the donors tell you by their responses how they want to be communicated with. Don’t let any individual or department take turf ownership of the donor. Measure everyone’s success against the growth of the overall giving of the donor, not by individual campaigns. Encourage cross-functional teams to work on organizationwide challenges, where staff gets to know each other, gain exposure to other areas of the organization and perhaps even accept assignments on other teams. Establish common platforms and systems across the organization, and give people access to the same data and information. This discourages information hoarding.
Tom Harrison is the former chair of Russ Reid and Omnicom's Nonprofit Group of Agencies. He served as chair of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.