Fundraising is a Team Sport
Successful nonprofits don’t just have talented staff, engaged boards, and other dedicated volunteers. Successful nonprofits work in a collaborative manner with each of these team members, leveraging their skills and networks for even greater impact. It’s as simple - and as complicated - as that. How organizations engage and leverage their various team members can be a sophisticated process that can reap huge rewards.
Most nonprofits ask their board members and other volunteers to connect them to funders, and this is a great place to start. But board members, staff, and volunteers are connected to the community in a variety of ways and it’s important to consider all the ways they can support.
- Define fundraising goals and revenue streams you’ll utilize to help you achieve those goals. While financial support frequently comes from individuals, corporations, or grant funders, there are a wide variety of fundraising opportunities within each of these categories. Individual gifts range from principal/major gifts to mid-size donations, to small direct response gifts, to gifts secured via online fundraising through social media, to third party fundraisers. Grants can be secured from private foundations, corporate foundations, government grants, and even civic groups. And corporate gifts can be secured through sponsorships, matching gifts, employee giving campaigns, and more. Finding success through any of these revenue streams requires a plan to meet your set fundraising goals. Start with gift charts, sponsorship packets, and outreach plans. Make sure to determine how you’ll communicate your mission in a way with each group for the best possible chance at securing a gift, and decide how you’ll share the impact following gifts to help guide you through the fundraising process. Define the needed roles and look at who you have on your staff and board team. What skills and connections do they have? Then identify gaps in your team – do you need to recruit board members from specific industries or from within specific social groups? Do you have staff with the specialized skills needed to support your fundraising plans? What are your board and staff recruitment priorities? This pre-work will help you successfully work the plan.
- Set communication expectations. Nowadays a majority of workplaces operate in a remote or hybrid style work environment. There are many benefits to this type of workstyle, but this makes effective communication even more essential for your team. Collectively, you must determine how frequently to connect (every other day, weekly, bi-weekly, etc.) and the manner in which you will connect (in person, over the phone, via Zoom, etc.). Additionally, your team should determine when to use a chat feature such as Slack or Teams vs. email. Oftentimes, using chat is easier for quick questions and email is easier for longer questions that require lengthier responses. Setting clear communication expectations ensures that there will be no miscommunications and that items will not slip through the cracks.
- Create opportunities and educate/train your team members on how they can leverage existing opportunities throughout their networks. This could be as broad as high school and college alumni groups to more specialty groups such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals and other fundraising and grant membership organizations. These types of groups often host events, meetings, and other types of engagement opportunities that can serve as hugely beneficial assets for your team and organization as a whole. You could be surprised by the number of local opportunities that are available in your area!
- Foster a sense of ownership among all team members. It will result in deeper engagement and a greater chance of success. When team members help build the plan, they can better understand the “why” behind the “what” and leveraging several smart minds on the “how” will lead to greater outcomes. Additionally, including all those involved in the planning process will help keep you organized and prevent mixed messages to supporters.
- Encourage questions, innovation, and creativity. Approaching a goal with different perspectives on ways to arrive at success opens new funding opportunities. Have you ever heard that looking at a problem from a different angle opens up new solution options? While fundraising isn’t a “problem” that needs fixing, it requires a lot of creativity and partnership. And while some best practices remain constant, doing things the same way doesn’t open as many new avenues.
- Provide the necessary training and resources for success. Whether your organization is still in its start-up stage or if it has been operating for decades, it is crucial to provide your team with ongoing training and resources. There are many online resources (such as Nonprofit Ready, GiveSmart, and Mightycause, among others) that can be easily utilized for gratis training and webinars. Subscribing to newsletters from the Association of Fundraising Professionals and Blue Avocado provides additional learning opportunities as well. Also, finding a mentor, within your organization or externally, can make a world of a difference. The Association of Fundraising Professionals hosts several mentorship programs and skillfully pairs mentors and mentees.
- Create a culture of philanthropy. When board members understand and believe in the mission, they want to support it. Make sure your key volunteers have the tools to tell your organization’s story and the impact their gifts have had and how it made THEM feel. Genuine passion for a mission is contagious. Additionally, many grant funders require an organization to have 100% board support in order to be eligible for funding requests.
- Put a face to the impact and share success stories. It is critical for donors to be able to feel the impact of their gift when they donate to your organization. Having a comparison that donors can wrap their mind around (i.e. $100 provides five meals to a family in need) makes them more likely to become recurring rather than single time donors. Firsthand testimonials from those supported by your work as well as photos and metrics go a long way for donors to feel involved and connected to your mission!
Collaboration is critical to success and nonprofits should recognize their potential strengths and weaknesses as they explore funding opportunities. Members of your nonprofit team should feel empowered and united, honing in on your organizational goals, values, and mission. Remember: fundraising is a team sport that requires a multi-pronged approach to best serve your organization and achieve your fundraising goals!