Ways to Support and Inspire Your Development Staff
Written by Andrea Barnes on March 14th, 2016
Several weeks ago I was talking to a Development Director of a noted regional charity. She had been hired to increase the organization’s "new" donor base while her Executive Director maintained all the relationships with the charity’s historical major donors. I was personally impressed with her background in the corporate world and thought her skills would translate beautifully in her new nonprofit position. She was bright and cared a lot about making a difference and fulfilling her responsibilities.

What struck me during our conversation was her distress. In the time since her hire date, she felt a lot of pressure to just DO HER JOB, but with little or no support to do it. Her ideas were constantly put down and she was essentially unrecognized for any really positive things she was doing.

I’m dumbfounded when I hear stories like this. Because of the shortage in trained development professionals, nonprofits are often short-handed and on the constant lookout for talent. When a charity makes the commitment to hire a fundraising professional, it doesn’t make sense to isolate them and hope for the best. The development function is not easy but it is wonderfully rewarding. However, it can be unnecessarily challenging if the function is not understood or valued. What can your nonprofit do to support your development staff and inspire them to maximize their effectiveness?

I believe that it comes down to making a commitment to create a culture of philanthropy throughout your entire organization.
Acknowledge that raising money is a key value and mission-aligned division of your charity. Fundraising staff members are included in your charity’s inner circle. They are valued for their input and insight for all strategic planning of the organization. They have easy and open access to board members. They regularly report their activities, needs, challenges and successes at board and staff meetings. On-going learning and training is encouraged and budgeted..
Bring development into the fold. Because the development function is so different than everything else that happens at the charity, fundraising staff are often physically and functionally isolated from the rest of the team. Make formal time for them to become immersed in the work of your charity. If you operate a school, invite the development team to attend classes and interact with students. If you run a theatre company, invite development staff to sit in on auditions, artistic staff meetings and behind the scene rehearsals. The more development staff members are inspired and engaged in the work of your charity, the more authentically and enthusiastically they can speak to your donors.
Decide that every person at the charity has a role to play in raising money for the charity – Executive Director, Board members and staff. Certainly, the development staff have the day to day responsibilities – they plan and execute strategies, they write proposals, they cultivate donors and stage events. In my career, I have had the privilege of raising $34 million for admirable and wonderful charities. I absolutely did not raise the money on my own. In the most successful organizations, I enjoyed the support and participation of the people I worked with daily at each charity. I had wonderful board members who helped to solicit support. I had strong executive directors or heads of school who helped to lead the fundraising effort. There were amazing volunteers. Of course there were the generous and enthusiastic donors themselves.
Here are 4 keys ways to engage your entire charity team in the fundraising process.

1. Work with each person on the board and the staff so they are able to articulate your case for support. If they find themselves talking to interested prospective donors, they are able to discuss funding priorities, the metrics of the organization and make the right connections so the relationship can appropriately develop.

2. Ask your team (staff and board) to be alert to possible funding and grant opportunities that may come up in their day-to-day interactions in the community.

3. Provide a forum where development staff can inform the rest of the team what is needed to write effective grants and implement the fundraising process. Team members understand they may be called upon to help.

4. Identify specific ways staff may be called up to assist the development team. These areas could include:
  • Participating in corporate sponsorship or solicitation meetings
  • Helping to host tours of your facilities
  • Assisting in writing grants
  • Participating in strategic fundraising planning sessions
  • Opening doors for solicitations
  • Helping with donor stewardship including writing notes, making personal calls and emailing donors that they know.
Fundraising works best if organizations create a structure that values fundraising as a critical function in fulfilling their mission. Not isolated from the delivery of charitable services, development staff feel empowered when their work is woven in authentic ways into the everyday work of the charity. Simple but powerful adjustments in the structure of your charity will help development staff to have greater impact and will positively affect the charity’s bottom line.
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About The Giving Principles
The Giving Principles is a company that aims to create unprecedented support for good.  We do this in three areas:
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About Author: Andrea Barnes

Andrea Barnes founded The Giving Principles after having spent her entire career facilitating social good around the globe.  She is an expert in nonprofit management with an emphasis on raising money.  Along the way, she designs corporate social impact programs with local, national and international reach.
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