How to Improve Fundraising for a Nonprofit Organization - Part 1: The PlayersWhen discussing ways to improve an organization’s fundraising efficiencies or capacities, we often begin by looking at items dealing with procedures, processes or policies. But that’s not the best starting point when trying to improve your organization’s funding support. You need to start with the human equation.

Very recently I’ve had quite a few questions coming in from ministries wanting to know who they need to hire to either completely turn things around, or to take the fundraising department to the next level.

Unfortunately, what I believe I’m hearing too often is: “Jeff, where can I find a hired gun that can really boost donations?” 

And my initial response to that is, “You can’t!” (or at least, you shouldn’t!). Those who try are almost always disappointed and find themselves looking for a replacement within a year.

The second response is: Why do you believe the issue resides with your current development director?

Please don’t be mad. But if you’re the top executive at your ministry, I would recommend that you begin by looking at yourself, and how you are leading, or directing the development department.

It is often said, but rarely embraced, that the effectiveness of any ministry’s development efforts begins at the top and flows down. As the head of your organization, you are also the head of development.

So, why won’t a hired gun work?

Here’s the secret to hiring the right Development Director for your organization. Aside from the characteristics and profile that you should be looking for (I’ll cover that in a future blog post) – here’s the big secret: hire one that is a raving fan of your ministry! Sound too simple? It’s not.

Only someone who is as big a fan of who and what the ministry is will be able to take your fundraising to the next level. Plus, they won’t be easily hired away, or go looking for a better position in a year.

And exactly where do you find such a person? Far more often that you’d imagine, they’re right under your nose. They already financially support your ministry – and may even be a volunteer.

How is the head of your ministry also the head of development?

  • The Leader Sets the Tone

    Just like every other aspect of your organization, the leader sets the tone and the mindset for how the rest of the organization sees and perceives fundraising. Will they see it as a necessary, but uncomfortable chore – or, more appropriately, ministry itself?

  • The Key Major Gift Officer

    Besides setting the tone, the head of the ministry is the key major gift officer. Some major donors will only give a consequential financial gift to the head of your organization.

  • What are the critical positions you need to fill?

    A few of the main development positions are well known – you may even already have them filled. As the chief executive at your organization, or perhaps as a Board member: Do you know what each of your development staff are supposed to do? Do you know how to measure their performance? Do you know how to encourage them?

    We’d be honored to help you with this. But in the meantime, let’s take an abbreviated look at each of these positions, and discuss, the order you might want to consider bringing them on staff as your organization grows.

  • Dedicated Development Staffer

    Someone to manage the donor database, coordinate outbound solicitations/receipts, and manage incoming donations. Since your database is quite literally the financial base, and future of your ministry, this is the most critical position on your development team.

  • Development Director 

    The Development Director is responsible for day to day operations of donor and major donor work as well as developing and managing the strategy and staff to reach your goals.

    Whether by themselves, or with a team, they cultivate donors and solicit gifts, help plan strategies and draft the case for support. The depth of your relationship with your donors is charted by the Development Director. This person cannot just be good at securing funding, they must be fans of your ministry, and truly love people.

  • Development Assistant

    In order to allow the development director to spend more of their time with strategy, oversight and securing larger gifts, consider bringing on a development assistant to handle your direct mail program, and all the other miscellaneous duties that have to be completed. This position demands a highly detail-oriented individual who can be trusted with a significant amount of responsibility. They will also handle management of the database software, and usually runs reports and analytics.

  • Major Gift Officer 

    Your organization will never be able to realize its potential financial support without a Major Gift Officer. A MGO will craft and manage the strategies and procedures for identifying and cultivating major donors. Major donors must be solicited, communicated with, wooed, thanked and reported on. This person must be able to work directly with the chief executive and development director.

  • Events Coordinator

    They work with the development director to craft and execute the plan and strategy for your ministry events. This may be another team member, or a stand-alone position, depending on the number and size of the events your ministry puts on. This position also requires a self-starter who is highly detailed and organized.

  • Grants and/or Foundation Coordinator

    This person works with the rest of the development team on the case for support. They write grant RFPs as appropriate to the funder, assist in reporting or setting up a system for the operational team to report back to the funder in a timely manner.

Your development game plan is important, but it’s more critical to employ the right people, with the right gifting, and the right heart. Skills can be trained, procedures and policies can be drawn up, but you can’t teach what only God gives.

If you’d like to talk more how to improve fundraising for your nonprofit organization with your key players, schedule your free coaching call here >>