I called the office of a nonprofit organization and asked to talk to the development director.
“She’s not here,” said the person answering the phone. “Call her back later.” And then I heard the click of a hang up.
Clearly, this person did not feel that development had anything to do with her. She didn’t know, nor did she seem to care, who I was or what I wanted. I could have been someone looking to make a gift, or a donor who was unhappy and now would be unhappier still. I might have been a program officer trying to decide between two organizations to get limited grant funding.
I’ve wandered about offices and wondered why no one seemed curious as to who I was, or if I needed help.
On the other side of the coin, I’ve called and spoken with friendly, helpful people who made me feel a part of it all.
If I were looking for a place to park some funds, the latter would win out over the former. If I had a beef with the organization, the friendliness and helpfulness would go a long way to making me feel more positive about the group.
Often staff just don’t know how to act. They don’t understand how important the outside community can be. It’s our job to explain and to recruit them onto the development team.
- Educate them—about their role and about the importance of making outsiders feel connected.
- Teach them that fundraising is not just asking for money, it’s about making potential donors feel good about the organization
- Tell them what you do—and how they can help
- Recognize the good things they do:
- “I really appreciate the way you assisted my donor.”
- “Remember Mrs. So-and-So? She just made a $10,000 gift! Thank you for helping to make that happen”
Don’t just do this once; do it often both formally and informally.
We talk a lot about building a culture of philanthropy at your organizations. It’s critical for fundraising success. It happens when everyone at your organization understands the importance of what you do and how charitable giving supports your work. It happens when everyone-regardless of role—sees him or herself as an organizational ambassador.
Staff should also be invited to make a charitable gift. Note I said “invited” not “coerced.” Deciding to give brings a person closer. Employees who chose to give often tell me that it gives them a stronger understanding of how these contributions really make a difference. More, it makes them proud to be supporting an organization they know does amazing work. If you think your staff won’t feel that way, you have a big barrier to building a culture of philanthropy and perhaps a bigger problem that you first must focus on!