Empowering Your Fundraisers: 6 Ways to Keep Them Happy and ProductiveMar 14, 2023
Happy fundraisers raise money. They make deep connections with donors and prospects and are excited to go to work every day. They care about the mission, and their sole purpose is to share stories and invite mission-believers to invest in the organization. By empowering your fundraisers, you are not only more likely to keep them, but they will raise more money.
When fundraisers are exhausted, stuck in meetings all day, emotionally beaten down and/or taken for granted, they can't be their best selves. In this mindset, it's really hard to go out and tell people how wonderful your organization is. In this blog, we're going to explore 6 ways that you can help keep your fundraisers happy.
Give Them Time Off
This might sound counter-intuitive but bear with me. You're probably thinking, "the more my fundraisers work, the more they'll raise." Nope. Major gift officers need time off to recharge, get perspective, and be active in the community.
In essence, they need stuff to talk about with donors. In most major donor visits, the first 10 minutes are spent catching up and talking about what's new in their lives and in the community. Fundraisers should be able to participate in those meaningful relationship-building moments. Your donors are going to sporting events, seeing the latest movies, dining at the coolest restaurants, vacationing, and enjoying new exhibits and shows. Your fundraisers should have those opportunities because it will help them build relationships, meet new prospective donors, and possibly run into donors while they are out-and-about.
Make sure that your fundraisers are out of the office by 5 p.m. so that they can rest, recharge, and relax. When they have more time, they will be active in the community and that allows them to seize opportunities that organically come up.
If you've hired well, your fundraisers will need minimal supervision. They might need advice from time to time, and you should meet with your fundraisers regularly. But it's important that they feel empowered to identify prospects, make introductions, cultivate, and solicit gifts. I'm always shocked at how many fundraisers operate from a place of fear. The fear is not if they will meet their fundraising goal; the fear is of their supervisor.
Fear is not conducive to fundraising. I worked for a supervisor once that insisted that all of her eight direct reports run everything past her. If we wrote a proposal for a donor, if we wanted to institute a creative cultivation tactic, if we wanted to pursue a new prospect, we had to get her opinion. But it wasn't just her opinion because if you didn't do what she "recommended," all hell would break loose. She would hold a grudge for weeks, and sometimes you could never get back in her good graces. She churned through employees and her fundraisers were not that successful in their pursuits. Don't be like her. Empower your fundraisers to trust their guts and stretch their wings.
Get Out of Their Way
Oftentimes fundraisers are managed by non-fundraisers or fundraisers who have graduated up to leadership and only work small portfolios. Either way, it's important to give your fundraisers time and space to do their work.
If you're a non-fundraiser, you must let your fundraiser be the expert and build strategies and tactics that you might not understand. Just because you don't understand them doesn't mean they aren't the right methods. If you're a fundraiser managing other fundraisers, weigh in when you are needed, but allow your fundraisers the grace to make their own decisions.
Give Them Tools
It's not easy to fundraise if you don't have the right software and insights. Firstly, your fundraisers need a CRM that houses all prospects, donors and gifts and allows them to mine for new prospects. The CRM should also produce reports allowing your fundraisers to understand the organization's philanthropic landscape and how it's evolving over time. The organization's CRM should be tidy and reliable.
There are other platforms that assist fundraisers focus on the right prospects and use their time efficiently. Wealth screening software, for example, allows fundraisers to understand the capacity of the donor pool and use directional guidance to go after the right prospects. This saves a tremendous amount of time and ensures that your gift officers aren't chasing prospects with no capacity. Bottom line - if your fundraisers need a tool, get it for them.
Protect Their Time
Fundraisers have a lot on their plates and the last thing they need is another meeting....that doesn't have anything to do with fundraising. The funny thing (that's really not funny) is that most fundraisers lack the time to fundraise. It is the number one complaint I hear from my major gift coaching clients -- that their day is filled with meetings, administrative work, and managing up.
If they can be excused from meetings, let them off the hook. If a meeting only has one agenda item referring to fundraising, they should only show up for that one item. If they can get the gist by reading the meeting minutes, they shouldn't have to go. And lastly, if a meeting can be handled by sending an email, cancel the meeting altogether!
Every meeting costs the organization twice. The first cost is the fundraiser's hourly cost, and the second is the time spent not building relationships or prospecting.
Ask How You Can Help Them
When struggling with a prospect or problem, one of the best questions a boss can ask a fundraiser is, "How can I help?" This signals that you're there if needed and willing to spend some of your time to help them. They may ask you to make an introduction, to think through a solicitation strategy, to strategize on how to get in the door with a funder or eliminate a roadblock. The key here is to be supportive and part of the solution.
Happy fundraisers raise money. They aren't stuck in meetings but freed up to do what they do best: fundraise. Fundraisers are also social, goal-driven, smart individuals who need space and time, not micromanagement. They also need tools and time to relax. If you follow these steps, you are well on your way to having happy, successful fundraisers.