Develop Peak Donor Management Performance at Your Nonprofit
The human body is a miracle. Within it, each individual system is a miracle of its own, functioning in a miraculous way. The systems work together to improve our chances of good health — and survival — by maintaining a stable environment, known as homeostasis.
Nonprofits also are miraculous — as they identify issues that need resolution and craft a means to that end. In nonprofits, there also are individual systems that, as in the human body, run at peak function when they are individually healthy and work together to support one another.
In the nonprofit arena — like in healthcare — there are best practices, systems and protocols that keep the organization functioning at peak capacity. Much like the human body, when an area is weak or neglected the nonprofit and its mission suffer.
It was just over a year ago that I had heart bypass surgery. It was a wake-up call for my health — but also for how I lead. I wasn’t able to engage in the business for several months. So, at first, it was a wake-up call to double-check systems and ensure that all the needed protocols were in place and up to date.
I had to ask others to step up and take over for clients with whom I had taken the lead for years. This is why, in moves management, I am keen on never having just one staff member or volunteer maintaining an exclusive relationship with a donor or prospective donor. Here are three essential keys to make sure your donor management doesn’t miss a beat when the unexpected happens.
Consistency is important. It is vital that the team is on the same page about a plan, strategy and direction. One of my greatest frustrations from 10 days in the intensive care unit was that I literally had a different nurse each day — and only two for more than one night. Each night they would spend a good bit of time rearranging the cords and tubes that I was connected to. It was uncomfortable and frustrating. And each would complain about the last nurse who left such a mess.
Clear communication is essential. If something’s wrong, tell a donor. If there’s an issue, address it. In the hospital, it was difficult to get clear and consistent information. My stay in the ICU was extended for several days for issues about which I was told very little. People working toward a common goal — be it caring for a patient or a fundraising campaign — need to be on the same page.
Most of the hospital staff were helpful and positive. But when I was finally moved to a private room, I had an orderly who accompanied me on a few walks and shared how unhappy he was with his work. Having even one negative encounter like that can plant seeds of doubt, no matter what the situation.
There are times when systems in the body compensate and adapt for issues and weaknesses. While I was out, my second-in-command, who does not like to be in a lead and visible role, excelled in that function.
Systems are key. In healthcare, including heart surgery, there are various systems that must work together and protocols to be followed. They have been developed over the years for the best patient outcomes. The same holds true in fundraising and other nonprofit work. Follow what works.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.