What Are We Doing: Fundraising or Development?

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Image credit: Jennifer Davis Dodd

Since starting my job at Lakeland Regional Medical Center Foundation more than 25 years ago, I’ve been explaining what I do. That’s natural; since my title included “development,” and many people weren’t sure what I was “developing.”

Throughout my career, my titles have included “development” and “advancement” in several iterations (associate, director of, officer). To simplify I’ve usually explained, “I’m a fundraiser.” But since I’ve been at this for a while, I’ve realized there is more to what I do than fundraising.

Let’s start with some definitions from the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Dictionary:
Developmentnoun; the total process by which an organization increases public understanding of its mission and acquires financial support for its programs
Fundraiseverb; to seek donations from various sources for the support of an organization or a specific project
Fundraisernoun; a person, 1. paid or volunteer, who plans, manages or participates in raising assets and resources for an organization or cause. 2. an event conducted for the purpose of generating funds.
Philanthropynoun; love of humankind, usually expressed by an effort to enhance the well-being of humanity through personal acts of practical kindness or by financial support of a cause or causes

I’ve noticed that we can’t even decide what to call ourselves within our professional field. Click through these links to discover the various ways we describe ourselves:
Association of Fundraising Professionals
National Philanthropy Day
Association for Healthcare Philanthropy
Council for Advancement and Support of Education
Certified Fund Raising Executive

We can’t even decide whether we want “fundraising” to be one word or two.

What Really Matters

My dad used to say, “I don’t care what you call me, just don’t call me late for supper,” and I think that applies here. It doesn’t matter what you call it, what matters most is how you do it.

Development is about developing relationships on behalf of your organization.

Fundraising is a transaction.

If development were a line, fundraising would be a spot on that line.

Here’s what matters most: how do you treat your donors? Do you treat them as a means to a transaction? Or do you treat them like friends and family, like someone who has a relationship with your organization?

If you’re treating them like a transaction, they won’t stay.

If you build a relationship, they will stay.

So what do you call it at your organization? Development, fundraising, or some of both? And how do you approach it: like a transaction or a relationship?

No matter what your job title might be, don’t strictly fundraise. Invest your energies in developing relationships with the donors who support your organization.

What 3 Things?

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was meeting with an Executive Director and a newly hired Development Director to work on a development plan for their organization. The development director had extensive experience in the for-profit sector and had volunteered with the organization. However, this was his first adventure in professional fundraising. As we wrapped up our meeting, the ED turned to me and asked, “What three things would you tell him as he gets started?” What a great question! At first I was taken by surprise. After a quick minute of thought here’s what I shared:

1. Always have a story
We know our organizations so well but have to remember that the people we meet everyday won’t know it as well as we do. Telling an impactful story is the most effective way to demonstrate your mission in action. Forget the statistics about impact. Don’t bother saying that you are a 501(c)3. Tell me a good story to pique my curiosity. Invite me for a tour. That’s how you will begin to build relationships for your organization.

2. Listen more than you talk
Now that you’ve got a story to tell, tell it well then shut up and listen. Especially when we are new to an organization, we are compelled to demonstrate how much we have learned. Stop that. Tell your story, then stop and listen to the responses. When you are meeting donors who already support your organization, ask them questions and learn from them. (Not sure what questions to ask? My favorite resource for that is from fundraising expert Karen Osborne here)

3. Write it all down
In the busy life of a professional fundraiser, we are tempted to move quickly from one task to the next without taking the time to record important information. I warned my new colleague not to skip that step. For instance, when we are meeting with a donor and practicing “listen more than you talk,” we will probably learn new information that we think we will always remember. Unfortunately, we won’t. Write it down so that it will be recorded and available for you (and the development staff that follows you – and the data shows that you won’t be with your organization forever).

Some months have passed since this interaction and I’ve had a chance to reflect on the three things that came to mind.

Would I change my answers?

I wouldn’t. I still think these are the three things a new development director should keep in mind as they get started.

This blog originally appeared on the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay’s blog. 

Are You Interesting?

Photo credit: William Leonard
Photo credit: William Leonard

Are you interesting? As a fundraising professionals, our job is to develop relationships on behalf of our organizations. If we are going to do that well, we have to be interesting. How do you get interesting? Get out of your office!

Many fundraisers wear ‘working all the time’ as a badge of honor. They brag about being the last one to leave the office every night and repeatedly work on weekends. I’m here to tell you to stop doing that. Leave on time. Stay out of the office on weekends.

There are reams of research that prove you have to step away and unplug occasionally to be your most productive. Now I’m adding another reason that is specific to fundraising:
if you work all the time, you won’t be interesting;
if you aren’t interesting, your prospects and donors won’t want to talk to you;
if your prospects and donors don’t want to talk to you, you won’t be a good fundraiser.

Here are 5 ways to make yourself more interesting this summer. Whether you have vacation time available or just need to leave the office on time, try these and let me know how it works.

1. Get outside – get out of your cell phone’s service area or go somewhere not safe for your technology (think water, sand, wind, rain). Go for a hike, kayak, paddle board, sit on a beach. Visit a national park or just sit on a park bench.

2. Read fiction – Remember how teachers used to describe reading when you were young? “ Visit a foreign land, travel in time, meet famous people.” That still applies! Not sure what to read? Here’s what’s on the New York Times Best Sellers list.

3. Read nonfiction – Try the latest business book or revisit a classic like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Here’s the New York Times nonfiction best sellers. 

4. Eat something new – Try a new restaurant, experience a new type of food or check out a local dive. Did you know that Food Network has an app that lets you search for featured restaurants? Have you checked to see what local restaurants have made it on the air?

5. Be a tourist in your hometown – no matter where you live, visit a few places that are tourist destinations. Visit Trip Advisor, then for “Where are you going?” type in your own city and select “Things to do in.” Have you been to all the places that come up on the list?

What does all of this have to do with fundraising? NOTHING! That’s exactly the point. If you work late every night and all you think about is fundraising, no one will want to talk to you. So go – get out there and make yourself more interesting. Your donors will be glad.

Letter to a New Development Director

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A colleague just got a great new development job. I started thinking of what I would tell him if he asked me (and he hasn’t but since this is a great outlet for unsolicited advice I thought I would share).

Dear friend,

Congratulations on your new position! Fundraising is an extremely challenging and immensely rewarding profession. I’ve thought of several things I think you should do in your first few days and weeks in your new position. Here they are in no particular order:

  1. Get a good support system – sometimes development can feel very lonely and frustrating so make sure you have a good group of colleagues outside your organization who can encourage you and tell it to you straight.
  2. Join a professional association – development is a profession and our professional associations offer much of what we need: continuing education, a code of ethics, research, and advocacy. AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) has local chapters throughout the US; several right here in the Tampa Bay area (Suncoast, Southwest, Nature Coast, Polk). There are others for specific parts of the nonprofit sector like education (CASE) or healthcare (AHP).
  3. Read, read, read – there are great books and blogs (like this one!) about fundraising. Read them. Not all of them, not all the time but make sure you are spending some time refreshing your skills and recharging your batteries.
  4. Go home on time – I’m sharing this advice given by author Penelope Burk at the AFP Planet Philanthropy Conference in 2012. I was shocked when I heard it. Some of us think that we should be working day and night to get all of the money raised. Penelope pointed out that if we are working all of the time, we won’t be that interesting when we interact with donors. Have a hobby, exercise, spend time with your family – stay interesting.
  5. Practice your listening skills – 2 of the great thinkers in the field of development have written extensively about this. Karen Osborne has a free resource on her website, Asking Strategic Questions. Jerold Panas dedicated a whole book on the subject called Power Questions.
  6. Learn the key things about your organization – a great book on this subject is The 11 Questions Every Donor Asks and the Answers All Donors Crave by Harvey McKinnon. Check out those questions and make sure you can answer them for your new organization.
  7. Go get a story and be ready to tell it – every organization is full of stories about the impact they are making in their communities. Make sure you can tell a firsthand story that illustrates that impact. This may mean spending some time in the patient care areas, museum floors, classrooms, or labs of your organization.
  8. Make time and budget for training – as you build your team, pay attention to the areas where they need additional training and the ways you can help them prepare to move up. Same goes for you, too. Don’t get so busy in the job that you forget to keep yourself current.
  9. Enjoy it – fundraising is a challenging and wonderful profession. You are a part of changing the world and you should enjoy it.

I’ll close with: I’m happy to help however I can. Good luck!

Originally posted on the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay blog.