Fundraisers play an indispensable role within any nonprofit organization. We don't just bring in monetary resources; we foster relationships, build trust within communities, and elevate the public image of the organization. By grasping the full spectrum of our worth, fundraisers can move beyond transactional interactions and engage in more profound, transformative connections with both our supporters and our partners, both inside our institutions and beyond.
What follows are two examinations of how we bring broader value to our institutions, strengthening them through the questions we ask and the collaborations we can spur.
#1: Asking the Right Questions to Build a Stronger Organization
Not only do effective fundraisers respond to questions posed by our donors, but the best among us also proactively anticipate what our donors will want to know and work with internal partners to generate inspiring answers to these questions. Through this activity we have a unique role to play as a catalyst for all-encompassing organizational growth, seeking answers to the essential questions that should compel the entire institution to think critically and spurring it towards operational excellence and holistic strength. What are these questions and how do they serve to strengthen operations?
A central question that fundraising teams probe is: "What is our compelling narrative?" The answer doesn't merely serve the purpose of securing funding. Instead, it challenges the organization to identify, hone, and articulate its core purpose, values, and mission. In this way, it can streamline strategic planning and decision-making across all operations. Done well, this distinctive narrative resonates with stakeholders, boosting engagement, morale, and overall organizational cohesion.
Another question is: "How can we effectively demonstrate our impact?" This incentivizes the organization to develop robust evaluation and reporting systems, ensuring that the work performed truly aligns with its mission and goals. It also compels departments to assess their outcomes critically and continuously, promoting accountability and transparency.
Equally vital is the question, "How can we diversify our funding sources?" This query propels organizations to innovate, explore new revenue streams, and form strategic alliances, partnerships, and collaborations, each of which can expand the organization’s reach and influence. Such an approach not only ensures financial sustainability but also fosters resilience in the face of economic fluctuations.
The question, "Who are our key stakeholders, and how can we effectively communicate with them?" is also pivotal. This pushes the organization to map and understand its diverse stakeholder ecosystem and devise effective communication strategies. This leads to stronger relationships, increased stakeholder satisfaction, and broadened support for the organization.
Lastly, "How can we attract, engage, and retain top talent?" is a question that forces organizations to focus on human resource strategies, promoting a work culture of growth, development, and satisfaction. It not only increases productivity but also amplifies the organization's ability to fulfill its mission effectively.
By helping the organization be able to explain its “why” in both sufficient and inspiring ways, we can act as a catalyst for strengthening operations. By providing voice to the questions of some of our most important partners, we push the organization to continuously introspect, innovate, and optimize its programs, thereby driving growth, sustainability, and durability. For these reasons, and more, it is essential for organizations to value fundraisers as strategic partners in their journey towards excellence.
#2: Driving Collaboration to Reach Our Ambitious Goals
We live in a world of ever-increasing complexity and with challenges that call for a collective and collaborative effort from all sectors of society. But who will build this necessary collaboration? While by its very nature collaboration invites contributions from a variety of teams, fundraising units—whose roles often encompass donor relations, marketing, event planning, and relationship-building—are uniquely positioned to serve as linchpins in fostering inter-institutional collaboration. Here are several ways we can accomplish this goal:
Just because we can foster collaboration doesn’t mean we do, or that we do it well. Below are a few strategies fundraising teams can deploy to enhance institutional collaboration:
While it’s true that development teams hold immense potential in strengthening institutional collaboration, it requires strategic planning, constant communication, and, most importantly, a shared vision of achieving greater good for society. Fortunately, these are skills and worldviews that are abundant in the fundraising community and I know we will make great things happen. As we navigate through the complexities of today's world, the collaborative efforts we catalyze will undoubtedly serve as beacons of hope and drivers of impact. I look forward to hearing about the collaborations you hope to undertake!