Nonprofit fundraising teams come in all shapes and forms. Whether your nonprofit is big or small, local or international, fundraising is likely an essential activity for your nonprofit.
Funding is crucial if a nonprofit organization wants to survive and get closer to accomplishing their mission. Finding funding is usually the responsibility of a nonprofit’s fundraising team.
One of the biggest challenges for nonprofits is to grow an adequately large and effective nonprofit fundraising team. Resources are often scarce for nonprofits, so the staff is usually spread out across multiple roles and responsibilities.
With all the firefighting that nonprofit professionals need to do on a daily basis, strategically growing the fundraising department can be a real challenge.
In order to start approaching your fundraising strategically, it’s important to have a fundraising plan in place.
A fundraising plan is a document that contains and organizes all of your nonprofit’s fundraising activities over a certain period of time (usually 1 year). It’s a strategic document that generally includes information about campaigns, donors, fundraising events, and a communication plan – among many other things.
A fundraising plan provides a clear course of action. It makes it clear what everyone’s responsibilities are over a specific course of time. Finally, a fundraising plan helps shift the approach the entire organization has towards fundraising.
Your fundraising team should agree on relevant and appropriate financial goals (aligned with your mission) and detail the fundraising techniques. If you have the opportunity and the capacity to do so, create 3 and 5-year fundraising plans too. These can be much broader than your 1-year fundraising plan.
In essence, having a nonprofit fundraising plan creates some breathing space for your nonprofit team – which, in return, allows them to focus on growth and expansion and not firefighting.
There is a seemingly endless mountain of possible fundraising activities: digital marketing, approaching potential major donors, creating captivating video content, pursuing corporate sponsorships, e-mail marketing – to name just a few.
It can be hard to choose only a few of those as part of your fundraising strategy.
If you’re a well-established nonprofit, you can definitely add more positions – and some that manage specialty areas. For example, funding sources such as foundations, corporations, and events will benefit from more attention. In this case, you could have a team member dedicated to each one.
If your nonprofit is smaller, consider outsourcing some fundraising activities to volunteers (like prospecting or grant writing). Do what you can to free up time for your fundraising team so that they can focus on the core activity: cultivating relationships with donors.
It can sometimes be easy to forget that relationships stand at the core of fundraising – especially during the times when things get busy, the pressure increases and deadlines loom.
Look at how your team spends their time. Make an effort all together to understand whether your time and efforts reflect your priorities. See how much of your team’s 40-hour work week is dedicated to relationships with donors. Based on the analysis, make the necessary adjustments.
Investing in the growth of your fundraising team is one of the most impactful things you can do to strengthen it.
There are a lot of different ways in which you can invest in your employees – or in your fundraising team in this case. Investing in your fundraising team is part of capacity building.
The National Association of Nonprofits defines the capacity building as “whatever is needed to bring a nonprofit to the next level of operational, programmatic, financial, or organizational maturity, so it may more effectively and efficiently advance its mission into the future.”
And no organizational, operational, or financial development can happen without people. And your fundraising team is crucial in making any of this happen.
Compensate your fundraising team appropriately (more about this in the point below). Since compensation is not even the most important driver of employee satisfaction, there’s a lot you can do even if the budget is tight. It’s important to note that, if you are able to at all, you should invest in your people.
If you cut your investment in talent (especially fundraising talent) to make room in your operating budget, you could be creating more problems than you were trying to solve. Without an effective, engaged fundraising team to shepherd your mission and keep your doors open, your other investments have little impact. Commit both time and resources to strengthen your organizational culture and your fundraising team.
Investigate which benefits matter to your fundraising team. These could be childcare in the office, laundry in the office, free in-office doctor visits, gym memberships, or education reimbursement. Invest in their learning opportunities. Enable your fundraising team to attend conferences, workshops, and training to improve their professional skills and explore their interests.
Some nonprofits seem to be afraid of investing in staff and then them leaving. However, it’s important to differentiate between positive and negative employee turnover. Negative turnover happens because of things like burnout and toxic organizational culture.
Positive turnover happens due to healthy cycles in employees’ career arcs. If you invested in your staff, when they leave your organization they become your ‘capital’ – reputational capital, your nonprofit’s advocates, future partners, and collaborators.
While for-profit organizations generally see the value of salespeople in their organizations and are able to directly correlate their income to the quality and contribution of their sales team, nonprofits often fail to do so.
Fundraising is a marketable skill and it’s one that’s worth a lot. A skilled fundraiser can move to another nonprofit at any time. Everyone wants good fundraisers.
Nonprofits sometimes seem to completely ignore that skilled fundraising professionals, unlike mediocre ones, aren’t always easy to find.
If you want to take your nonprofit fundraising team up a notch, you need to start seeing your fundraising team as an investment. And an investment with a huge potential return on investment (ROI).
When recruiting, recruit stars. Don’t be scared off by paying them higher salaries. Excellent fundraisers will make your investment worth it.
Be careful, however, not to create a one-person fundraising department or unrealistic expectations of your fundraising department. Fundraising is difficult, and it involves many different activities and skills. Nonprofit organizations lose talented future leaders every year because they are simply asked to do too much, with too little support or training.
Work out the actual hours it takes weekly, monthly to do each component of your fundraiser’s work. Be wary of adding to their list of job duties without really understanding if that’s feasible.
If you don’t understand fundraising as a process, take the time to understand it before creating the job descriptions for your fundraising team.
Note: When hiring, see how hiring that person will impact the already existing dynamics in the team.
It’s surprising just how many nonprofit organizations still have their marketing and fundraising departments operate in silos, completely misaligned.
In today’s day and age, if the two departments are not one team, at the very least they should be working very closely together. While it can be argued that it’s the job of fundraising team to raise funds, and the job of the marketing team to build the nonprofit’s brand – in the digital era the two functions become intertwined by their nature.
To start off, identify shared goals that will move your organization forward. Want to boost recurring donations this year? Take into account the role of social media and your website when setting targets. This is an example of a goal that both teams can contribute to.
This is a great way to grow your nonprofit fundraising team because you’re creating a team whose members possess diverse skill sets.
Have the team members from both functional areas cross-train each other in their respective processes, tools, and methodologies.
Set shared measures of success and run collaborative meetings where ideas are exchanged and members are consistently aligned towards shared goals.
One of the biggest obstacles to successful fundraising in nonprofits is the mindset some nonprofit professionals, including fundraisers, can develop about money.
Many of us have become jaded and cynical about fundraising. We are also constantly bombarded by fundraising appeals, especially during November and December. Finally, somewhere along the way, we created a belief that nonprofits and money ‘don’t go hand in hand”.
Some nonprofit professionals (and people in general) downright believe that money is evil and that fundraisers are somehow ‘shady’.
It’s necessary to create a mindset shift and change the organizational beliefs around money in order to really develop a successful fundraising team. A team cannot perform well if they don’t believe that what they’re doing is good and meaningful, or if the rest of the organization doesn’t believe so.
Fundraising enables hundreds of thousands of organizations around the world to serve millions of people. It keeps schools and homeless shelters open, funds cancer research, and saves millions of animals.
Fundraising is the lifeblood of any nonprofit organization. And as long as it’s done to fund a reputable cause – fundraisers are doing a lot of good. Work hard to change the beliefs around money in your nonprofit, and you will reap many benefits.
As a nonprofit leader, it is very important that you take the time to understand the people in your nonprofit.
If you want to grow your nonprofit fundraising team, understanding and communicating to your nonprofit team is a prerequisite.
For example, fundraisers are often frustrated because they get things thrown at them all the time. Sometimes, these directly contradict the fundraising plan and strategy. A collaborative culture where ideas are openly shared should certainly be encouraged, However, it can sometimes get challenging for fundraisers when any idea that anyone sees work elsewhere (e.g ALS Ice Bucket Challenge) is suggested to them without any understanding of the reality of fundraising.
Every organization can benefit from open and transparent communication, and your fundraising team will feel heard and recognized if you make the effort to have frequent conversations with them.
For example, you can organize weekly standing meetings where everyone checks in, shares their successes and challenges, and asks for help.
It’s also important to trust your fundraisers. Fundraisers are often challenged or pressured when fundraising goals aren’t met. However, fundraising takes time. Cultivating relationships takes time. Remembering this will help you understand your fundraising team better.
Building a fundraising team is one of the best things you can do for your organization. The time you invest in recruiting, training, and growing your nonprofit fundraising team will be well worth it, yielding tremendous results.
Growing your fundraising team is definitely an exciting endeavor. It enables your organization to pursue more funding sources, to grow your programs, and ultimately to increase your impact.
Many nonprofits are looking for that silver bullet – the one fundraising strategy or tactic that’s going to solve their financial issues for good.
However, that silver bullet doesn’t exist. Investing time and resources in your fundraising team is the most sustainable way to take your nonprofit fundraising to the next level. Building a strong and effective fundraising infrastructure is the only way to go if you want to succeed.
We hope you can use these insights and tips to help your fundraising team hit the ground running.