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Building a High-Performing Campaign Team

Perhaps your organization has just completed a strategic planning process. You have the vision, the goals, the KPIs, and the OKRs to take your nonprofit to the next level in serving the needs of your constituents. Now you need the resources to make the vision a reality, and the Board has turned to you to make it happen.

A Chief Development Officer must be a skilled fundraiser, but in many instances, they are also called upon to be the campaign quarterback, rallying the team behind the goals and coordinating each individual’s efforts with precision. Embarking on a campaign is the perfect opportunity to assess your current team and advocate for resources, realign or make strategic hires, and build team cohesion so that everyone can play their part effectively.

Assess your current team and needs:

Once you have determined the key goals and performance indicators for the campaign, assess staffing needs accordingly:

  • Will you double your annual fundraising revenue over the course of the campaign?
  • Will you achieve unprecedented numbers of first-time major gift donors to your organization?
  • Do you have a significant number of potential campaign donors whose interests and inclination need to be qualified?
  • Will your current information systems, gift entry, and acknowledgement processes support increased fundraising activity?

Use your goals and benchmarks to determine the right hires for your team. A development assessment can also help you better understand the gaps in your staffing structure in preparation for the campaign.

Often there is an assumption that an organization will have to “staff up” and increase the number of FTEs in the development office to support increased fundraising during a campaign. This may turn out to be true, but evaluating how existing staff members are spending their time will also help determine if they are focused on the right types of activities:

  • Are things like event planning, donor research, or volunteer management preventing your major gift officers from getting in front of prospects for meetings?
  • Are you or members of your team asked to participate in too many institutional committees or initiatives that aren’t directly supporting fundraising?

Knowing how you can realign tasks and responsibilities to maximize focus will give you a clearer picture of the needs you have and the resourcing you will need to advocate for.

  • Do you have active and engaged Board members who are willing to participate in donor cultivation and solicitation meetings?
  • Will volunteers host campaign receptions?

The right volunteers, managed effectively, can augment the work of paid professionals during the campaign and send a powerful signal to other potential donors about supporting the organization. Determine your strategy for leveraging your volunteers and how this will influence staffing needs.

Hire and retain high-performers:

Through the assessment process, you may uncover areas of strength or weakness that need to be addressed before significant campaign progress can be made. Early in the campaign planning timeline is a great time to make strategic hires, as hiring can take up to six months especially for senior-level fundraising professionals.

Demand for skilled, experienced fundraisers is high, so it can also be worth considering candidates who have transferrable skills who are outside or adjacent to the industry. Research shows that mission alignment and passion for the cause you serve is important in the hiring process, but it isn’t sufficient to drive retention. Instead, job satisfaction and alignment with skills and competencies, along with a competitive salary and benefits, are key to attracting and retaining high-performing team members.

And, just like retaining donors is more cost effective than acquiring new ones, retaining staff over the course of the campaign is most cost effective for the organization in the long term. Still, 84% of nonprofits surveyed in a recent study don’t have a formal retention strategy. Use the campaign planning process to create a staffing retention plan for your development team.

Build cohesion and develop your team:

Outside of dollars raised, what are the other key goals of your campaign? Well-executed campaigns not only raise funds, but also advance a culture of philanthropy where giving is celebrated and donors are strategic partners in advancing the mission.

Creating a culture of philanthropy starts with your development staff. Every member of the team should understand how their responsibilities play a role in campaign success and, ultimately, what campaign success means for the future of the organization. It’s natural to celebrate development officers or volunteers who secure big gifts, but it’s just as important for non-frontline staff to see themselves and their work as critical to the achievements and milestones of the campaign.

Create time for all of your staff to hear from and understand the constituents your organization is serving. Host town halls where all members of the staff can learn about the campaign priorities and understand how they advance the mission and support the vision of the organization.

Think about the key performance indicators that you will track in order to achieve the goals of your campaign and how they translate to individual members of your team. Clearly communicated performance evaluation processes, metrics, and goals for staff will help you coach and develop talent from within the organization and prevent turnover. For major gift officers, incorporate goals beyond just total dollars raised and set metrics based on portfolio composition. Develop talent from within by providing mentorship and professional development opportunities throughout the course of the campaign.

By thoughtfully building a high-performing team, you will position your organization for campaign success and lay the foundation for continued fundraising achievement. Philanthropy is a people-centric profession; indeed, philanthropy means goodwill to the human race. As such, nonprofit fundraising leaders must recognize that their people are one of the pillars of campaign success and invest time and resources accordingly.




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