Creating a Culture of Philanthropy Requires Investing in Our Staff, Leaders, and Volunteers

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Rowena Veylan

Take a minute to imagine this: your entire organization is passionate about raising money for your cause. The development team is functioning well and your fundraisers feel that they are supported with what they need to be successful. Your programs team is passionate about connecting potential supporters and clients with your cause. The marketing and communications department takes the lead on sharing stories of impact and initiating revenue generation ideas through their channels. Your volunteers and board members are advocates and champions of your organization and cause, connecting you to potential supporters on a regular basis.

What would this mean for your organization? Why do we not all experience this type of philanthropic culture? There seems to be a belief that it is “easy” to fundraise and people just “know how to do it” but that is just not true. Fundraising is a skill that we need to develop and the best way to go about this is through education and training.

The personal growth of fundraisers

Everyone has heard the adage that fundraisers “move around a lot”. Why is that and how do we ensure that our development team stays with our organization? To answer that question, we need to ask ourselves if we have dedicated time to the personal growth of our fundraisers.

Traditionally, we have focused our education efforts on teaching fundraisers skills such as how to make an ask, write a grant application, or conduct a capital campaign. But how much time have we spent with our junior fundraisers on how to work with a team, speak to donors, or understand leadership versus management? Our mid-level fundraisers need to learn more about the strategic side of fundraising but also how to participate in senior meetings, manage teams, and work through difficult conversations. We need to grow and nurture these future leaders along with teaching them how to fundraise.

We need to help our senior leaders to explore their own development as a leader, navigating work/life balance and working effectively with a board. It can be lonely for them at the top and many leaders could benefit from a network of peers to support them and be a sounding board.

Everyone is a fundraiser

Every organization has probably experienced what is often referred to as “silos”, at least at one time or another. You have your fundraising team, programs team, and marketing and communications team, and each seems to be in their own corner and moving along in their own space. The expertise of each team member is clear but their cross functional expertise is lacking. If we spent more time getting our other team members up to speed on fundraising best practices we would see more cross collaboration. When your programs team can see raising money as an opportunity and not an obligation it is magical. They are your most front line staff and they interact with those that are impacted by your work the most. Your marketing and communications team is your voice and when they can speak of your work in the way that inspires donors, the stars truly align!

Supporting our volunteers

Fundraising requires a very specific skill but it is not a hard one to grasp, it just takes a little bit of effort. Truly supporting our volunteers involves giving them the tools that they need to be successful. Don’t we want them to be successful for us? From the dedicated event participant that has been participating in our ride for many years to the board member that is so very passionate about the cause, each volunteer can do better if we give them the fundraising training that they need to raise more money and be a better advocate and champion for our cause.

How do we do this? We need our nonprofit organizations to dedicate what we know are scarce resources to their staff and volunteers. COVID-19 has hit everyone very hard but now is the time to focus on what we still have and how we can do better. Turning our attention inward can mean that we retain our employees and increase morale, and supporting our volunteers will ensure that their precious time with us is memorable. Most of all, it truly means that we are able to raise more money to support our cause. Remember… it takes money to raise money!

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