Charities – especially larger ones – often get into the mentality that fundraising is some specialized department that operates quietly in the corner to bring in the money. The only time program staff need to talk to fundraisers is to say ‘hey, where’s the money for our project you promised us?’ Okay, maybe this is a bit exaggerated. But the point is that non-fundraising staff tend to think that fundraising has nothing to do with them.
This is wrong. Fundraising has everything to do with project staff. They are the best fundraisers and should be brought into the process of cultivating, soliciting and stewarding donors. In my experience, no once can speak as passionately and knowledgeably about the work the nonprofit is doing on the ground as project staff. They are the ones who are carrying out the core charitable activities and are therefore the best advocates for convincing donors to support their work.
So, here are some ideas for how charities can benefit from involving project staff in fundraising activities:
Educate staff on fundraising
Hold an information session for staff members to learn more about how fundraising works and why their input is important. Fundraisers would probably be surprised at how interested other staff members are in helping out.
Bring program staff to donor meetings
This is a must. Frontline staff members are more knowledgeable about the issue they’re working on than fundraisers. They are best placed to answer donor questions and provide a passionate case for why the work is needed. The fundraiser is there to guide the discussion, provide information about (the need for) funding, and be the relationship manager moving forward.
Have project staff contribute to funding applications and reports
Again, project staff will know much more about the details of programs than fundraisers. This is especially important when providing the details (need, objectives, activities, timeline, etc) for writing funding applications and regular donor reports.
Encourage others to think like fundraisers
This means stressing the importance of spotting funding opportunities and prospects – including at events, meetings, conferences, etc. Project staff should be encouraged to record this information in the CRM database and feedback to fundraisers. Some of the best funding partnerships I’ve ever developed have come out of suggestions from non-fundraising staff.