How to Involve Staff with Fundraising
Aside from those in your charity who are directly involved in fundraising, do the rest of your staff have a good sense of what it is that you are aiming to achieve – and why?
I always make a point of going out to meet with other staff throughout any charity that I worked with, as creating a fundraising ethos not only makes the job easier but broadens the networks, ideas and opportunities available to the fundraising team (or the sole fundraiser!).
Having worked with large and small charities, those with a ‘traditional’ fundraising background and those who have just introduced fundraising to their charity, I’ve found that raising awareness among the wider staff group not only helps to improve understanding and support but creating a fundraising ethos within your charity can often help with networking and relationship building among broader networks. It’s even helped me to raise a six-figure lead gift (more of which later)!
So, first off, why bother?
Well, perhaps it’s me but my experience working as both an in-house fundraiser and a consultant has been that fundraising is viewed by the wider staff as:
“a necessary evil”
“selling ourselves to the highest bidder”
“something that doesn’t involve me”
“an area that’s of no interest”
“the CEO’s current ‘baby'”
“a passing fad”
In one charity (that will remain nameless) my colleague and I couldn’t understand why there was so much animosity from the other staff – only to discover on going out and meeting with people that setting up a fundraising office had been made possible by top slicing everyone’s budget without any explanation of why this might be important or of benefit to them. Yikes! (We did redeem ourselves by bringing in £5 million two years ahead of target AND building a friend-raising programme that continues to engage their wide network of supporters).
Of course, not all comments have been this negative but I have found that generally, the wider staff either view fundraising with suspicion or disinterest not as an area that they could be involved with or that can benefit them.
In various roles, I’ve raised awareness in two main ways – first off has been running open seminars for staff, inviting them to hear more about what we’re doing (or aiming to do), why fundraising is important to the charity, what the benefits can be. These have generally resulted in:
getting more potential fundraising projects from across the charity (this was the desired outcome at the time);
increased understanding for me of the work going on in the charity;
more support from wider staff with fundraising and events;
more information sharing and involvement – creating a two way communication channel between fundraising and other staff;
introductions to staff networks that might contribute to or assist with fundraising.
I’ve involved external consultants where I’ve felt that their help/external viewpoint was needed. Ffor example, in one charity I had just joined there was a ‘them and us’ attitude among the wider staff and I wanted to get them back on side so having an outside view helped to achieve this. In other circumstances of course, having a consultant there would have the opposite affect.
In another charity, which had a background in community fundraising, I ran a couple of seminars about capital appeals prior to the launch of their major gift campaign for a capital project. I invited a mixture of senior and admin staff to each seminar – which was interesting in itself as apparently, that wasn’t how they ‘did things’. These seminars helped to increase awareness of what I was doing, generated discussions about existing networks among staff and resulted in me being introduced to a friend of one member of staff who thought ‘he might be interested in what you’re doing’. That meeting resulted in the lead gift of £100,000 to kick start the £1 million appeal!
Whether you run seminars about fundraising – around current needs for the fundraising team (for example, if you’re looking for new projects or want to launch a new type of fundraising) – or if you go out and meet with staff individually, it is definitely worth raising awareness among those who don’t work in or with fundraising every day.
Whether a presentation or a meeting with an individual, it’s important that you talk to staff about their concerns about fundraising – if they have any – to try to address those. If they’re worried that you’re all about pushy sales techniques or ‘selling the charity’s soul’ it’s your job to show them that it’s all about relationship building and giving donors the opportunity to give to a cause they support. Show that you’re donor centric, demonstrate how fundraising will support the needs of the charity – not just the needs of the fundraising function.
FOCUS ON BENEFITS
Fundraising can raise the charity’s profile among DIFFERENT networks, broadening opportunities beyond current networks.
Diversifying income to trusts, high net worth individuals, potential sponsors, the corporate sector and the general public can help to sustain a charity – particularly in the current climate.
Make it clear that you’re there to support what they do through fundraising – and not detract from their work.
Ultimately, there will be people who want to keep fundraising at arms length but the benefits of involving staff in what you are doing far outweigh the downsides of sharing your aims and objectives.
I know that sharing information or running seminars is just another aspect to add to your workload, particularly in a smaller charity, but getting staff onside can give you a sounding board for your ideas, support for your fundraising, provide a spare set of hands to help out at busy times – and can generally make your working life easier, while also positively impacting on your fundraising.
OK, so you might not raise a six figure gift as a result but you will gain crucial support for fundraising from within your charity.
Create a fundraising ethos and your charity and its donors will benefit now and in the future.