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Team Spirit: Mobilizing Your Organization for Fundraising Success

The Olympics may be over, but you still need a team! Have you got a plan for mobilizing your entire community of friends and supporters to help you reach this year’s goal?

Fundraising is not only more fun when you share the load, it’s also more effective.

Indeed, one of the findings of the Fundraising Bright Spots report we’ve been exploring over the past few weeks, is that “fundraising works best when it is distributed broadly across staff, board and volunteers.”

This is not surprise. After all, fundraising is a team sport. The more people you have asking, the more people you will reach, and ultimately, the more people will make donations.

But, what does this mean for the development professional in the house? In bright spot fundraising organizations, “development directors are organizational leaders focused on skill building, culture change, and systems development to support others in fundraising.”

Frankly, this kind of development work is a lot more difficult than sending out mail appeals and writing grant proposals!

Here are some tips for mobilizing your entire organization to be the best fundraising team ever:

Be personally invested. If you’re not accustomed to relying on others to help you fundraise and providing the support they need, it’ll be a shift for you. It takes a lot of time and energy to make others successful, but it’s worth it! Start small if you have to, just to test it out, and then build from there.

Have a plan. Figure out who you’ve got to work with and incorporate them into your entire fundraising program. When and how can the board participate? How about the Executive Director? Other staff and volunteers? Look closely at your annual development plan and pinpoint the best opportunities for engaging others in the work. Then map out a plan for doing it.

Create “turn-key” opportunities. Once you’ve identified your fundraising team and how they can help, make it easy for them by offering simple ways to participate. You might host open houses and other events that they can ask their friends to attend, launch crowdfunding or other peer-to-peer initiatives, engage them in writing thank-you notes or making thank-you calls, offer to visit their prospects with them, and so on. This Board Fundraising Menu has just a few ways board members can be involved in fundraising that work for staff and other volunteers, too!

Don’t just train, activate. It’s not enough to ask people to help and give them a quick training. You actually have to walk them through the process, step by step. For example, don’t do a major gift training for a large group and then say, “OK everyone, now go ask someone for $1,000!”.  That will not work.  Instead, work closely with the two or three people you know are ready to ask for that kind of gift, plan and practice a specific solicitation, and go with them if you need to.  Once they’ve succeeded, they’ll be ready to go on their own.

Have a system. Your database is at the very heart of ensuring positive donor experiences. Make sure everyone understands how important it is to keep you in the loop. Have easy systems in place for people to let you know what they’re up to. Use the relationship-manager function to assign specific solicitors to prospects. And, of course, be sure there’s a “pre-approval” process for approaching major donor prospects. You can’t have everyone calling everyone. That would be a big mess!

Integrate fundraising into the life of your organization. There’s a lot of talk about building a culture of philanthropy in nonprofits and for good reason. It really pays to have people understand and embrace fundraising as part and parcel of the organization’s life rather than regarding it as something solely in the purview of the development staff. Include in your plan specific activities to keep people informed and involved in fundraising. Ask others (staff, board, volunteer) to share their fundraising successes so people truly understand that it’s everyone’s job to fundraise, not just yours!

And, of course, be sure to celebrate when things go well.  Go team!

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