Recently, I met an amazing fundraiser. They were just a few months into the job, full of energy and ideas, and were incredibly focused on raising much-needed funds for their organisation. They also said they were already feeling frustrated by internal silos, a ‘that’s not how we do things here’ mentality, and colleagues saying ‘we don’t have enough prospects’.
I went away from that meeting feeling inspired and frustrated in equal measures. They were clearly a talented fundraiser, but were not being supported or inspired to do the job. If their ability to inspire and build rapport was anything to go by, it won’t be long before they are so frustrated that they look elsewhere and get snapped up by another organisation. We know there are many different levers which have an impact on our teams’ abilities to fundraise, and that a shortage of fundraisers makes our role in retaining staff even more crucial.
Having coached and trained many fundraisers over the last decade, here are my top 5 tips to inspiring your fundraisers, and keeping them!
1. Keep focus
What does success look like after 3, 6, or even 12 months? Do we measure it by the number of internal meetings the fundraiser has attended, or the beautiful fundraising brochure they have produced? Simply put, fundraising is about relationships. Has your fundraiser built strong relationships with their top prospects? Do they have a good partnership with your academics or Board? Are they emerging cultivation plans that suggest there is potential for gifts that can make a real impact on your organisation? Are they organically growing their prospect pool? If your fundraiser is out of the office building meaningful relationships, then you are on the right path.
2. Give them training and coaching
Investing in your team is one of the most crucial areas of your budget. Whether you have a new fundraiser with limited experience or an advanced fundraiser, tailored training for your team can help to reenergise staff and help them to focus on what matters. What are their strengths? What parts of their job do they find hard? Bringing your team together for training also empowers them to support each other – from the Prospect Researcher to the Development Director. Encourage an ethos of coaching and mentoring. This isn’t a weakness but a sign you want to be the best you can be.
3. Grow your own!
Nothing makes me prouder than seeing the people who were student-callers during a telethon now leading teams. Spotting talent, taking a chance on investing in them, and watching them grow into talented fundraising professionals can be both rewarding and fruitful for your organisation. Yes, they may not have experience with HNWIs or cultivating potential major gifts, but with the right support, training, and coaching, these talented individuals can help build the pipeline, grow relationships, and flourish into terrific fundraisers.
4. Recruit wisely
Early in my career, someone told me you can teach the principals of fundraising, but you can’t teach instinct or personality. When advising our clients on recruitment, we keep this in mind. It’s easy to look at CVs and see a list of amazing organisations, but what you really should be looking for is someone that can talk passionately about your organisation and demonstrate the impact they have made at their previous organisations. Using profiling and smart interview questions can help you find the right fundraiser and test their instinct and ambition. Knowing their strengths and weaknesses will enable you to put coaching and training in place to help them grow into the role.
5. Demonstrate the impact
Fundraisers stay in roles when they are: a) supported, b) recognised, and c) feel like they are making a difference. It’s so easy to get to the end of the year and say, “Great, we met our target, let’s get going on the next year,” but take time to reflect. Steward your staff like you would your donors. We talk about impact and the difference a donor’s generosity makes, but we don’t always celebrate our team and the difference they have made to the organisation. Whilst saying ‘thank you’ and ‘good job’ on a regular basis is a nice thing to do, it can quickly lose meaning. Take your fundraiser out for lunch. Tell them why you thought they did a great job. Explore with them what made it a success and where the challenges were. Identify ways you (or the organisation) can help them to have even more success.
At Graham-Pelton, we know that it is a real challenge to recruit and retain staff. We are here to assist, advise, and support our clients through tailored coaching and training services, as well as supporting recruitment processes including our Talent Q profiling. Do get in touch for an informal conversation about your needs.
Becki Mckinlay is Managing Consultant of Graham-Pelton and is based in the United Kingdom.