We have seen nonprofit executive directors and college presidents pull their hair out over their relationship – or lack of a relationship – with their development staff. There are magic words development professionals say that pour gasoline on a slow smoldering fire. Here are a few.
"I don't have enough staff." While this may be true, it is not a conversation starter. You must effectively deploy current staff before requesting more. A staffing request should be accompanied by a plan showing how new staff will increase revenue over-and-above the added salary line. "The event was a great friendraiser." A fundraising event that fails to meet goal is not a successful friendraiser. "We couldn't meet the proposal deadline...." There is no reason to miss a proposal submission date: plan ahead, and submit in advance.
"The annual appeal didn't go out until January." It doesn't matter that it was ready to go on December 27th. Year end appeals should go out in October. November at the latest. "I am heading up a community solicitation program for the chamber." Yes, your boss wanted you more involved with the community, but not like this. "Can you meet with a potential, major gift prospect in the next five minutes?" The point is you have to coordinate donor and funder visits with your executive. "I have a personality conflict with the chair of the alumni association." Managing relationships is a key responsibility for a development professional. You cannot alienate one of your most important constituencies.
"The person with that information is out on sick leave." This classic drives executives crazy. It doesn't matter that it's true: you need backup systems and cross-trained staff. "We are waiting on ABC foundation to take us over the top." Too often this is the gift that never arrives. Don't wait for a gift to make your goal: keep working a pool of prospects with the capacity to give three times your goal. "We made goal, but all gifts are restricted." We know this is an exaggeration, but there's a grain of truth: be careful with gift counting.
Here are a few other favorites: "Can you attend a check presentation of $1,000 in Chicago?" "I can't tell you how much we raised because of a computer problem." "Mr. Longwinded volunteered to make remarks at the grand opening." Two more that are sure to annoy: asking for a raise when you haven't met an agreed-upon, reasonable fundraising goal, and offering one-of-a-kind naming opportunities to more than one donor.
Here's a tip for fundraisers who want to strengthen their relationship with their executive: You are the "subject matter expert": Suggest potential solutions instead of leading with problems. Provide a weekly report with funds raised, prospects contacted, and important dates to remember.
Copyright 2014 – Mel and Pearl Shaw
Mel and Pearl Shaw position nonprofits, colleges and universities for fundraising success. For help with your campaign visit www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.