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.
In this silo state of mind, how can any program succeed in a holistic way? Shouldn't each prospect be viewed as a potential donor via annual gifts, major gifts and planned gifts? Donors can give in so many ways, from their individual gifts, corporate matching gifts, corporate gifts, family foundation gifts, etc.
In many shops, gift clubs are used in theory to increase gifts from smaller to larger gifts over time. That said, in a silo world, staff is encouraged to discuss strategy of prospects that might mean giving up excellent prospects in its portfolio to other staff members. You can see singular thinking may lead to individual success but not overall department success.
Have you tried to break down silos in favor of a cultural organizational change that emphasizes the whole and not the parts? To help you do this, consider employing the following steps:
- Realize that you have silos by doing a development internal audit.
- Use tools such as the pyramid of giving that points out all facets of prospects.
- Create individual and team goals with a variety of metrics, not just amount raised.
- Include new metrics such as numbers in portfolio, number of solicitations, number of closes, number of gifts, numbers cultivated, number of volunteers recruited, etc.
- Encourage each development officer to look at each prospect in potential annual-, major- and planned-gift ways.
- Encourage team/department goals, and celebrate success in each area equally.
- Use a research manager to direct prospect strategy sessions for all development officers.
- Train and educate development committee volunteers to think globally concerning any potential prospect.
- Emphasize with staffers that while they have specific functions for specific types of gifts, also keep an eye open for additional gift opportunities.
- Educate organizational leadership on the value of prospect engagement and relationship building.
Utilizing this holistic philosophy, I was recently with a couple who made a major gift to a program, an annual gift for general operations, and these donors told me they just placed my organization in their estate plan. I knew this was achieved over time through proper cultivation processes that led to trust and engagement in my organization. Everyone on my staff, from gift officers to research manager, celebrated the news and received thanks for a job well done.
In summary, let the silos store grain while you raise short- and long-term funds by looking differently at your prospects.
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.