Simone Joyaux wrote a must-read, “physician heal thyself” post for development teams in a recent Non-Profit Quarterly post.
In her column, Fundraisers: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, she enjoins development teams to look in the mirror before blaming others for failures. (If you have a hankering to listen to the theme music for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly movie while reading, there is an interesting guitar rendition here.)
Joyaux addresses many common complaints development departments have about board members not providing assistance with fundraising, board members not donating, issues with opinionated executive directors and weak economic conditions inhibiting efforts.
She provides some advice about dealing with each situation, mentioning a different approaches to use. In nearly every case though, she challenges fundraising staff to examine their assumptions and understanding of the situation to see if they are at least partially contributing to the difficulties.
Often she asks if the development team has sat down and spoken with someone to understand their limitations and concerns and whether the development staff has been providing sufficient support to a board member’s efforts on their behalf.
There are some things Joyaux writes about that I have rarely, if ever, heard mentioned in relation to fund raising efforts.
(By the way: How do you define fundraising? I hope you aren’t thinking about asking for money only. There’s so much more to fundraising than the asking point. Do you know all the steps and the neuroscience and the psychology and communications and all the rest? Can you help board members apply that, in partnership with each other and in partnership with you?)
When she mentions them, neuroscience and psychology make sense as factors to consider, but I can’t remember ever hearing them mentioned in connection with development before. (Actually, I have to admit I only have guesses on how neuroscience relates.)
As Joyaux notes, becoming effective at development is a process and there isn’t anyone who hasn’t committed some sort of poor practice.
In my early years, I know I must have behaved this way. I saw glimpses in the mirror. How about you?
Bad fundraising performance #1: The fundraiser didn’t handle well leads suggested by several board members.
Bad fundraising performance #2: The fundraising staff didn’t ask for specific support from a specific board member, and explain why, and provide support.
Bad fundraising performance #3: The fundraising staff doesn’t spend much time learning about the program. The fundraising staff doesn’t collect stories from program staff. The fundraisers rarely observe a program or talk with client beneficiaries. This produces weak solicitations, bad links with our heroes, the donors.
Oops, actually that last point reminds me I need to follow up with some participants of an education service we hosted last week.