To Raise More Money, Invest in Connecting Your Staff
As fundraising leaders, we are quick to think about our donors and wonder how each has fared during COVID-19. We wonder if donors are as loyal to us now as before the pandemic or whether their priorities have shifted. We wonder if how we’ve engaged our donors in our work over these last two years was enough.
The best advice I can offer is to think not just about your donors during this time, but, more importantly, your staff. How has your staff recently connected with your mission and strengthened their relationship with your cause? How have employees reconnected with each other?
I was at dinner with some colleagues recently, and we laughed like we hadn't in years. Being in the same room reminded us of old times and created new memories. We strengthened trust, the currency by which all work gets done. And most of all, we reengaged our passion for the cause nearest and dearest to our hearts.
It's not that anyone had stopped believing, in fact, our staff members are the unsung heroes of figuring out new ways to convey impact to supporters. From doing Zoom calls to hybrid events to making phone calls to check in with donors, the list of new ways staff delivered our mission and continued to mobilize the public amid COVID-19 goes on and on. But while our team had stepped up to redefine what donor connection looks like in a new and virtual fundraising world, the staffers were missing the hands-on connection to each other and to our mission in action that helps to fuel the soul.
Those staff onboarding programs at conservation organizations that send new staff into the field to see the work in action, or volunteer weeks working on the front lines for other causes, have mostly dried up because of the pandemic. But the energy staff gets from directly participating in your mission — much like a donor does — has dividends beyond just their experience. It's a direct infusion of inspiration and a jolt forward for all the rest on the team as well. What jolt has your team received lately?
Much like during an emergency, when we must deploy staff to help with lifesaving on the ground, look today for ways to provide those opportunities for your staff to connect more with your mission and to each other. Who can work on another team for a short period of time to see your work in action and from a different vantage point? Is there a way to deploy staff to help your mission directly whether it is building a house or handing out meals? Don't get caught up on the length of time, even a couple hours can put that spring in a staff member’s step much like it does a donor’s heart.
Spend some time listening and then brainstorming together on what can help recharge your body and mind and provide fresh experience and storytelling for those on your team. The stories your staff will have to share with donors from reengaging will be a breath of fresh air for all involved. There’s a natural rhythm teams have when they’re together that is undeniable and being in the same space with my team last week and laughing together reminded me of that.
Personally, I took some time this month to volunteer at Best Friends’ sanctuary in Southern Utah and the next time we talk, I will regale you with just how amazing it is to push a cat around the Red Rock Canyon in a stroller. It really will change your life and I can’t wait to share more with you.
Sue Citro is the chief experience officer at Best Friends Animal Society and is responsible for how the development, digital, marketing communications and brand experience teams collaborate and work in new ways to bring more people into Best Friends’ lifesaving work. Before joining Best Friends, Sue led new digital expansions for The Nature Conservancy in Asia and Latin America. She started her career working at Peace Corps headquarters, followed by time at a direct mail agency and then consulting in the digital fundraising space with nonprofits large and small.
Sue holds a master's degree from Johns Hopkins University and lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Jeremy, and 103 lb. rescued dog, "Little" Luca.