Hurry up and Wait……. Really?

June 21, 2019

Sometimes the way fundraising activity is managed by a charity can be cutthroat. Especially in bigger fundraising shops. Far too often, there is a sense of scarcity and that there aren’t enough good prospects/donors to keep all of the fundraisers actively cultivating relationships. I say ‘nay nay‘ to that.

How many times have you seen a fundraising ‘sales’ meeting where someone asks if they can start to cultivate Mrs. X. Immediately, one of the other fundraisers around the table pipes up and proclaims “Mrs. X is one of my prospects. I’m working with her!” But have they done any moves management with respect to Mrs. X? Fast forward 3 months. The same question arises and the same answer ensues. The bottom line is that the mindset of the first fundraiser is that “I’m working with Mrs. X [even if I’m not doing anything constructive to move the relationship] and you cannot.” What a shame!

As someone who has seen this dynamic happen too way too often, I offer this piece of advice — perhaps there’s a reason that you aren’t ‘moving’ on Mrs. X. Do some self-reflection. Maybe Mrs. X would be better served by having another fundraiser as her relationship manager?

In those high-pressure offices, the mindset of keeping donors to yourself (at the risk of inactivity) is rampant. That is because many folks think of fundraising as a net-sum-zero task. If my colleague is successful with Mrs. X, that means that I am not and I am somehow a lesser fundraiser. That may not necessarily be the case. What is best for the donor/prospect? The fundraiser is merely a conduit to help the prospect/donor achieve their philanthropic wishes. I would suggest that a team approach works much better — you may not be the best ‘fit’ for this prospect/donor, but if one of your colleagues is, the goal of support to your organization can still be met.

In the shops that I have worked at, I go out of my way to not have individual ‘quotas’ for the fundraising staff that report to me. We work as a team and have the over-arching goal of the department in mind at all times (and it is still broken down into events, annual campaign, capital campaign, mailings, etc.). I would rather that we all work as a fluid team, whereby each one of us assumes the driver’s seat for a while with the different people that we meet. This will inevitably lead to more fundraising activity.

It’s just a different way of thinking. I had a donor once that was a consistent mid-level donor (for over 20 years). I just wasn’t clicking with her anymore. I tried various attempts at stewardship and cultivation, but I just couldn’t take the relationship to the next step. I re-assigned the donor to one of my colleagues and (almost) immediately, their relationship flourished and the donor has a deeper relationship with the organization. Do I feel bad? NOT AT ALL!!! At the end of the day, the donor is more engaged with us. And that is, after all, the name of the game.

Until next week.