Troy Yerkovich explains that everybody in your organisation has a role to play in fundraising.

Troy Yerkovich explains that everybody in your organisation has a role to play in fundraising.

Here’s a true story. An elderly wheel-chair-bound woman being cared for in a hospital hated being in-doors, and she asked to be taken outside where she could admire the gardens. Over several years the lady formed a strong friendship with the gardener, who doubled as her “minder” when she was outdoors.

When the lady passed away, the hospital learned it was the recipient of a $500,000 bequest to be used for a new building, provided it was named after the gardener.

Unfortunately many nonprofits overlook the importance of involving all their staff and stakeholders in the fundraising process – and therefore miss out on important sources of income.

The most fundamental principle of fundraising is that people give to people – so the greatest asset your organisation has to attract philanthropic support are the staff and others connected to your organisation.

From the CEO to the cleaner, from program staff to volunteers, they can all influence giving, often without realising it. Here’s a couple more examples.

Truckin’ cash

The first story is about a truck driver who regularly delivered goods to a well-known sheltered workshop in Sydney. On every occasion, his contact from the delivery dock to the reception staff of this organisation was friendly and welcoming, and over time he formed strong relationships at this level.

Imagine the CEO’s surprise when the truck driver, in his black work shorts, singlet and work boots, one day dropped off a personal donation of $750,000, with a promise of more to come. No one realised the truck driver was the owner of a sizeable trucking company!

Common courtesy pays handsomely

Another story is that of a private school boy in Perth who regularly gave up his bus seat for an elderly lady. In her estate she left $1 million to his school. And the lady was not a school parent or in any way connected to the school.

These examples illustrate two important principles of fundraising:

firstly, everyone involved with your organisation is a potential donor and needs to be nurtured; and secondly, it is the little things we DO that make a big difference in fundraising.

Here’s a few pointers on how the different staff and stakeholders at your organisation can contribute to the larger fundraising effort.

Buck stops with the board

The board is invaluable in the fundraising process. If a board member does not believe in the organisation enough to donate funds or go and seek them from others, they should not be on the board.

The role of the board is to provide the three W’s – work, wealth and wisdom. So in simple – and perhaps harsh – terms, board members should give, get or get off.

Board members must take responsibility for top-level fundraising. It is the board that has the contacts for major gifts approaches, and these contacts will have the biggest impact from a fundraising perspective and at usually the least cost to an organisation.

Fundraising must be a regular agenda item at board meetings, and the current list of top-level givers should be reviewed at every meeting. It is the board’s responsibility to nurture these top donors at every opportunity.

Executive commitment a must

The top management is responsible for implementing the fundraising program, and for nurturing an organisational culture that encourages all staff to take responsibility in growing the organisation.

The CEO, for example, must be the champion of the cause. He or she must feel comfortable talking to topline volunteers and donors; must signal the urgency of fundraising projects; and must be able to harness the power of the board.

At one organisation I know of, the CEO’s commitments were adjusted in agreement with the executive team so that he could spend at least two days per week on fundraising during the critical active phase of a capital campaign.

Role of fundraising and general staff

The role of the fundraising team is obviously to facilitate fundraising. And while this means implementing a range of activities such as direct mail, events, bequests, major gifts and others, it is also up to them to encourage other staff and stakeholders to be involved in fundraising and friendraising.

It is vitally important that fundraising staff develop the systems and procedures that empower everyone within an organisation to participate in fundraising.

All staff outside the fundraising department must be trained ambassadors for their organisation. They need to be educated about how their actions and dealings with clients, stakeholders and donors reflect upon the organisation.

Donor validation

Don’t underestimate the power of your current donors to influence giving. They talk to their friends, family and work colleagues on all manner of things, and their word of mouth endorsement of the nonprofits they support will make others take note.

Volunteers and current donors provide validation to prospective donors that they are making the right decision in supporting your organisation. By seeing their peers involved, prospective donors feel more comfortable and reassured about supporting an organisation.

Your current donors are a precious asset and their efforts in assisting with your fundraising must be encouraged and valued.

A fundraising culture

Most staff at small organisations tend to participate in fundraising, but as organisations grow and become more complex, silos evolve as different departments focus on their own function area. In particular, larger organisations generally:

Promote an organisational environment where the fundraising process becomes an isolated outpost Do not automatically empower staff to become involved in fundraising Are evaluated on the basis of dollars raised rather than the more important exercise of relationship building with prospective donors

For an organisation’s fundraising activities to be successful, senior managers and volunteers need to actively address and manage a cultural shift that sees fundraising take a central place in the role of everybody’s job.

Diamonds waiting to be unearthed

Most third sector organisations are only aware of about 20% of their constituency because they do not empower their entire organisation to prospect for new donors.

On the upside, the potential donors are out there, waiting to be discovered, and the exciting part about this is that the diamonds are usually in your own backyard.