What’s Stopping You from Raising Major Gifts?
Part 3 of 5: A Lousy Team
Raising major gifts takes a village.
Unfortunately, many board members and executive directors don’t understand that. They hire a development director and expect them to raise major gifts in a vacuum, and subsequently, are upset when it doesn’t work.
This post was prepared from the development director’s perspective. But even if you’re not a development director, read on — you’ll learn a lot about what it takes to make an effective major gifts raising team.
Executive Directors must Fundraise
Executive Directors are a big part of your major gifts team. If you have an executive director who doesn’t want to fundraise, or doesn’t know how, it’s time to make a change.
One option is to find another job. But since that’s not an ideal option, let’s try to work with the executive director you’ve got.
Let’s assume you decide to stay and work with your current executive director. Here are some options to try:
Tell your ED that I (Amy Eisenstein) said that fundraising is an integral part of their job.
Blame the donor.
Explain that donors want to meet the head honcho, not so much the deputy. Executive directors are the visionaries and have the authority to ensure donors’ gifts are spent as intended. Meeting the ED also makes donors feel special.
Most executive directors haven’t had any formal fundraising training. Sign them up for workshops, webinars and conferences. You may also want to hire a coach or mentor for receptive ED’s. Training will boost their confidence and know-how when it comes to raising major gifts.
Board Members must Network and Advocate
Board Members are also an integral part of the major gifts team.
As an organization matures, the role of the board changes. When an organization is in the infancy stage, board members will participate in more of the day-to-day fundraising activities, especially before any staff members are hired.
As more staff members are hired and the organization matures, board members leave the day-to-day fundraising responsibilities to the staff, but they still have a critical role to play.
In order to have board members leverage their connections and networks, as well as help with asking, be sure to do the following:
If you’ve recruited board members without the expectation that they give or raise funds, it’s time to change your recruitment policies and procedures. You want to recruit GREAT board members.
Break it down.
Don’t assume board members know what to do. Be granular and specific when you want their help. Be clear with your expectations. And, keep it short and sweet.
Want them to help open doors? Ask them to invite a friend to take a tour, or make an e-introduction to the executive director. Want them to help with stewardship? Ask them to write three thank you cards or make three thank you calls. Provide scripts and sample wording.
Along the same lines as your ED, many board members don’t naturally know what to do. Provide training at every board meeting, as well as at annual board retreats. Also, bring them to occasional conferences or workshops.
Development Directors must Step Up, Too
Simply because you don’t have the perfect team doesn’t mean you can’t raise money. But it’s going to take some work on your part.
Don’t make excuses.
Board members won’t help open doors? No problem… start with your current donors. Executive director won’t ask? Well, do your best without her.
I once had a development director tell me that her board members and executive director refused to ask, so they couldn’t raise any money. I asked her what she did, and she simply shrugged her shoulders!
Get out and ask.
Regardless of what the rest of your team does, it’s your job to raise money. While you’re working on developing your team, get out there and ask. I guarantee you’ll raise more than if you’re sitting fuming at your desk.
Study and learn.
If you want to be in this field for the long haul, you’ll want to stay at the top of your game. Attend webinars, workshops, and conferences several times per year.
Whether you learn new techniques or best practices, or are simply reminded of something you already knew, it will only help. Training is also great for motivation and inspiration, which are also extremely important when you’re working with a less than ideal team.
Great Training Makes All the Difference
You may have noticed that I said “provide training” or “study and learn” for all team members. That’s because training works. The recent study I participated in proved it. No matter how much you know, you can always learn more.
I am a strong believer in life-long learning, which is why I attend AFP meetings every month and their annual conference each year. I also read several new fundraising books every year.
You may wonder why an ACFRE (the top fundraising credential) would attend so many trainings. That’s because something new is always happening, and I don’t want to miss it.
Team Building to raise major gifts is an ongoing process.
Try not to get discouraged. Instead, pour your energy into continuing to improve the team you have.
Speaking of improving your team, I’ve got unique training opportunity for you in the works. In the months ahead, be on the lookout for an upcoming comprehensive training program called Mastering Major Gifts.
Details to come…
This is part 3 of 5 of a 5-part miniseries: What’s Stopping You from Raising Major Gifts? Be sure to read the other posts to overcome every obstacle to raising major gifts — because you can do it!