The Secret to Getting The Buy-In You Need to Meet Your Fundraising Goals

January 27, 2020

As fundraisers, we’ve all been there…

You have a big grant proposal to write to a long-time funder, but you can’t get a straight answer from your program team or your Executive Director about the goals for next year. Or, you just got an email from your Executive Director saying she had a great meeting with an important donor, but that they didn’t really discuss a specific project or initiative that needs funding. What do you do now?

These situations are more than just frustrating. They could be a key reason why the study “Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising” noted high rates of turnover and extended vacancies in Development Director positions. And it makes sense! Talented fundraisers don’t want to work somewhere that lacks the tools and resources they need to be successful.

But all nonprofit leaders and staff know how important fundraising is. They know funding pays their salaries and creates opportunities to do the work they care about. How can you ensure everyone is pitching in?

Elevate and our partners at The Collective Good believe the secret lies in creating intentional alignment between fundraising goals and activities, and organizational goals and activities. Too often, nonprofit staff, including Executive Directors, aren’t on the same page with organizational strategy and priorities, which makes it difficult or impossible to articulate them externally.

In a follow up report to the study referenced above, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders advocate for viewing fundraising as central to achieving an organization’s goals and mission rather than a necessary evil. This means fewer silos and more collaboration between development and programs, communications, boards, and executive staff.

But how do you shift the entire culture of your organization? How do you move from “I’m responsible for raising 50% more from foundations this year” to “we’re all in this together?”

To answer those questions, Elevate and The Collective Good teamed up with the Center for Nonprofit Advancement in March 2020 for a workshop.

Here are the recommendations we explored:

Step 1:

As Executive Directors, ensure development staff/directors are part of the leadership team and equal partners with other senior staff; they participate in all planning, strategy, financial and organizational meetings.

Tip: This is important on an ongoing basis, but even more important during strategic planning! If you develop programmatic and fundraising goals together, it is much less likely you’ll set an organizational strategy without resources or let your fundraising strategy pull your programs in the wrong direction.

Step 2:

As Development Directors, lead your organization through this shift in thinking and structure by developing tools, systems, and messages that everyone can use to cultivate greater community and donor engagement.

Tip: get comfortable with managing up and across so that your colleagues and bosses have the information they need to engage donors at least as well as you can. Check out our blog post on Clear, Collaborative Communication for more tips here!

Step 3:

Be patient and set realistic goals for adjusting how your organization integrates organizational strategy with fundraising strategy. Culture change does not happen overnight and everyone will need time to change how they think about fundraising in the context of more programmatic and operational goals.

About the Author: