Fundraising Leadership: Are You Following or Leading?
Have you ever been in a situation where you knew what to do—what’s more, you knew exactly the right thing to do—but your efforts were getting bogged down by higher-ups?
- Maybe the letter you wrote for your spring appeal had all the donor love squeezed out of it by your board president wielding her red pen.
- Or the email campaign you worked on for a week got knocked down from five emails to one. (And then they’re going to tell you that email doesn’t work, either!)
- Or your board members think the "thank you" calls are a waste of time, and keep pressing you to write a miracle grant proposal to the Gates Foundation.
- Or, heaven help me, one of your board members wants to rent a billboard. (Seriously, can you imagine?)
Sadly, we’ve all been there. Feeling unappreciated. Working for organizations where you’re the fifth development director in three years. Mired in dysfunction. It can all get a bit discouraging sometimes and believe me, I totally get that.
Here’s something I’ve never shared. My very first fundraising position remains, to this day, one of my all-time favorite jobs. Terrific mission, wonderful community and donors, the best coworkers you could possibly imagine. And I quit. One day, I just up and walked. A brand new executive director got on my case and I let her scare me off.
Recently, I distributed a survey to my audience of readers. One of the questions I asked was, “What keeps you up at night?” One reader responded, “How to leave an organization that doesn't embrace philanthropy despite your many years of trying all the techniques in all the books and websites? I want to do a great job, but I'm exhausted!”
Ouch! Yes, I’ve certainly been in her shoes.
But it’s probably one of my few regrets in life that I didn’t stick it out, buckle down and find my own way to lead.
So this is my question to you: Are you following—or are you leading?
Maybe you don’t think of yourself as a leader and it’s hard for you to picture yourself as one. Maybe you’re even the reserved, quiet, shy type, or you simply prefer to follow directions and let others take the reins.
Regardless of who you are, I know that you care. And I know that you’re committed to doing right by your donors. That’s what really matters.
Just remember, when everyone is on board and committed to donor-centered fundraising, right from the start (or from wherever you’re at), not only will your fundraising flow (you’ll be surprised and delighted), but you’ll have happier, healthier staff, volunteers and board members—not to mention donors!
How do you start?
Keep everyone in the know. Begin by sharing your organization’s donor retention rate with your board and executive director. It’s a pretty fair indicator of how your organization is doing. What else should you be doing?
1. Regularly send out links to some of the best fundraising articles, or subscribe your staff, volunteers and board members to a weekly newsletter, such as The Grow Report or NonProfit PRO Today, or the Passionate Giving Blog. Invest and involve your staff, board and volunteers in a year-long training program, such as Simple Development Systems or a Basics and More course.
2. Integrate a short training session into every staff and board meeting. You’ll find plenty of examples in the book "Train Your Board and Everyone Else to Raise Money" by Andrea Kihlstedt and Andy Robinson.
Or, click here for 16 ways you can begin to lead.
Remember, fundraising leadership is a process, and it’s not going to happen overnight. This will take commitment, dedication and persistence from you. No one is born knowing the right way to fundraise.
If you don’t guide your team to success, who will?
Pamela Grow is the publisher of The Grow Report, the author of Simple Development Systems and the founder of Simple Development Systems: The Membership Program and Basics & More fundraising fundamentals e-courses. She has been helping small nonprofits raise dramatically more money for over 15 years, and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Fundraisers by Civil Society magazine, and one of the 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants by The Michael Chatman Giving Show.