Build Your Fundraising Team with Program Staff and the Very People You Serve

Jul 3, 2019 | 0 comments

Let’s be honest… at many nonprofits, the program and fundraising staff practically live in different worlds. You may not even interact with each other, let alone consider yourselves part of the same team.

At the same time, donors give because of the difference we make to the causes we serve.

Ties to Your Mission

Who has the strongest relationship with your mission?

  • The program staff who are in the trenches doing the work
  • AND the people whose lives your organization is changing for the better (if yours is a human service nonprofit)

In other words, your program staff are your direct connection to the work your donors want to fund. And, when appropriate, they can put you (and your donors) in touch with living examples of your nonprofit’s effectiveness — the people you serve.

But we’ve also got to face facts.

At most nonprofits, the program staff are already up to their eyebrows in their own work. And your program folks may well see your job as consisting of nothing more than a series of lunches and meetings where all you have to do is smile and glad-hand donors.

Get Program Staff on Board

To bring your program staff on board your fundraising team, you need to show them WIFT — what’s in it for them?

A great example

Years ago, when I was the VP for Development at Community Hospital in Lancaster, we had a lovely group of volunteers who made and sold 1,000 pound of peanut brittle every year at Christmastime to benefit the maternity department.

Have you ever made peanut brittle? Trust me — it’s a huge, labor-intensive undertaking. Now, imagine making 1,000 pounds of it in the weeks leading up to the holidays. In other words, these ladies really loved those babies!

But as time passed and our peanut-brittle ladies grew older, their ranks thinned a bit and they asked our staff to help them out.

That was the year I learned how to make peanut brittle. More importantly, a few of our maternity nurses joined the ranks. And over the cook stoves, to the rhythm of wooden spoons whisking, we all talked about the babies.

The peanut-brittle brigade loved it! The next year, this group of dedicated volunteers donated the proceeds of ALL of their events to our maternity ward. And pretty soon, staff members from throughout the hospital were lined up at my door looking for ways to get involved.

Just like that, a superstar fundraising team was born!

The Takeaway

When your program and direct-care staff understand how much donors enjoy connecting with your mission in a meaningful way, they can be your best asset in bringing your nonprofit’s message to life.

Get the People You Serve on Board

How can the people you serve be brought into the picture?

Another great example

Recently I worked with a nonprofit agency that develops and manages affordable housing. The program staff at this agency were already part of the fundraising team and were well aware of the value of connecting donors and clients, and every year they made a video featuring selected clients to be shown at the annual banquet.

Not only that, but the video’s “stars” were also strategically seated next to the organization’s biggest donors. The connection was magic!

The team didn’t stop there. Other clients were also invited by the program staff to attend and sit at tables where sponsors hadn’t filled every seat. The donors and clients had such a fantastic time together that, the following year, a few sponsors brought only one guest — and paid for reservations so the rest of their tables could be filled by residents!

How to Build a Stellar Fundraising Team

Here are the basic steps you can take to create a superstar fundraising/program staff team at your nonprofit:

  1. Share how the dollars you raise together will help make them more effective.
  2. Help them understand just how much donors crave a real connection to your mission.
  3. Ask for their input about ways to advance your work.
  4. Make it clear that you’re all — fundraising and program staff — in this together.
  5. Don’t forget to say, “Thank you, thank you and thank you!”
  6. Be sure to give the program staff credit for their vital assistance.

Have you ever been able to bring the people you serve together with your donors? Tell me about in the comments.


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