Why Silos and Fundraising Don't Mix and 10 Ways to Break Them Down
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the term silo can be equipment used to store grain; an underground chamber in which a guided missile is kept ready for firing; or a system or a process, department, etc., that operates in isolation from others.
Have you ever engaged fundraising professionals who work in silos either by organizational design, management mandate or personal preference? In my experience in management, consulting, mentoring, discussion with peers and simple observation over the years, I have seen and continue to observe many silos.
Many organizations have created distinct departments for annual giving, major gifts and planned gifts that work independently of each other. In many cases, portfolios are created with specific mandates for each segment. Specific strategies, for example, may be employed for prospects in direct mail, online giving, special events and personal solicitation. This process may be further divided into areas of corporations, foundations, associations, organizations and individuals.
Gift clubs are established to further subdivide prospects and donors. Staffs are typically given responsibility and accountability to maintain their own portfolios, which many privately guard. Their focus is to look at prospects from one perspective — that being to secure a singular objective in the way of either a short- or long-term gift.
In some organizations, departments are physically separated from each other and information is not shared. Annual-giving staffs do not talk or interact with major-gift staff. Planned-gift staffs are considered "them" and not us. As such, prospect and donor information is not shared, turf battles are formed, and individuals are worried about achieving individual fiscal-year financial goals without regard to overall team financial goals.
In these cases, there is no uniform process for identifying, rating and screening donors. There are no written plans of action, and success is not shared with everyone. Communication is selective from administration and given to volunteers on an "as needed" basis. In fact, staffs in various areas do not interact with each other beyond their specific roles.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.