How Does Your Fundraising Orchestra Sound?
I always have loved music. In a given day, I will listen to classical, jazz, rock and bluegrass, just to name a few. I love quality sound.
When I think of sound, I immediately envision myself sitting in the audience at a large orchestra's concert. For the sound to be perfect, everyone in the orchestra must play an important, singular role.
There are different sized orchestras. But in each case, a conductor leads the orchestra and directs the performance through visible gestures. For these orchestras to play well, practice and experience is critical to maintaining a quality performance.
How do orchestras relate to resource-development programs? As a nonprofit pro, you are the orchestra leader. In many cases, it is up to you to create, maintain and sustain a quality team that works in a holistic way, like an orchestra does, over time.
Regardless of the size of your team, it should have elements of special events, direct mail, online programs, foundations, corporations, individuals, annual gifts, major gifts, planned gifts and development services. Each of these functions, in addition to other functions, should be the responsibility of one professional per function or fall to smaller shops—fewer individuals with multi-functionality roles.
Just like an orchestra, each unique function should stand alone and provide a quality sound of performance. You will need to create some type of pipeline of resources that you can depend on from each entity. This will not be easy to do and will take time.
In addition to having the correct areas of focus, you must have the proper mix of individual engagement. In your development orchestra, do you have the proper staff with the right blend of training and experience to do its activities well? Do you have quality and quantity of volunteers who understand your organizational mission and can articulate your major priorities to prospects? Do you have a seasoned board that can lead by giving first, and then open doors to significant gifts? Does your administration embrace your role and function, and support and enhance your efforts? Do you have your various fundraising pipelines running full tilt? Have you added capital campaigns to your fundraising-orchestra mix? How does your fundraising orchestra sound?
Many development professionals have problems creating and maintaining a full-flowing fundraising pipeline. For various reasons, they simply cannot create and maintain a complex program.
One key is to build your program from the inside out. Make sure your annual-gifts program elements are in place and working. If they are, add major gifts to your arsenal. From there, add principal gifts and planned gifts. To keep the orchestra sounding in sync, place programs focused on adding new donors each year and programs that will help reduce the attrition of donors.
Do not forget the importance of your data, research, recognition systems and processes. There are many complex elements in play, and your job is to keep these in balance within reason. Common sense will determine the size of the program based upon resources given to the program.
Remember that the conductor unifies the orchestra, sets the tempo and shapes the sound of the ensemble. There are many moving parts as people representing various entities come and go. The ultimate short- and long-term success of your program depends on you. Stop and take an audit of your fundraising orchestra. Is the sound pleasing to you? If not, it is time to go back to the drawing board.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at email@example.com or 317-224-1029.