How truly great fundraising can flourish

first_imgOver the past year, researchers Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang have sought to answer the question, how can truly great fundraising flourish?It’s a timely question given that half of fundraisers want to quit – and a quarter of bosses said they fired their last fundraiser.The report – commissioned by the firm Clayton Burnett Limited – is out, and I wanted to share the findings. (You can get the report and executive summary for free at the firm’s website – just give a it a day or two for them to email it to you.)One answer was that organizations with incredible growth in fundraising have achieved that with the right people. Successful organizations have strong fundraising managers who achieve desired change through a combination of will and personal humility. They “devote considerable attention to what they regard as the critical building blocks of success, namely building an exceptional team, structure(s) and culture.”I’m going to highlight here some of the ways high-performing organizations built their teams. For additional findings, check out the full report.1. The manager built or retooled the fundraising team members and focused on a few, small early wins. This led to “improvement in confidence and morale, which became self-sustaining as individuals began to recognize their own potential to succeed. Technical expertise on the part of team members was important, but so too was conscientiousness, a willingness to support others, and a propensity to engage in appropriate levels of risk-taking.”2. The researchers note this shift in culture addressed turnover woes. “After the right team had been built, none of the organizations we examined suffered from the high turnover rates that otherwise pervade our sector. Being a part of a successful team appears to engender high levels of loyalty and our all our leaders were personally invested in their teams. The loyalty thus cut both ways. It was also interesting to note that those who defined their team more broadly, to include external agency personnel also exhibited a high degree of loyalty to that agency. Some were maintaining relationships with suppliers that had existed for over a decade.”3. Once a strong team was in place, they focused on the big picture in the right ways. Says the report: “We also found evidence in goal setting, that our outstanding leaders aligned their organizational metrics with the longer term drivers of donor value. Their objectives were couched not in the short-term minutia that typically pervade our sector, but in the standards and behaviours they identified would add value forsupporters and thus pay-back in the longer term. Their appraisal and reward systems were similarly aligned, to focus team member ambitions on the things that mattered most to longer term growth.”That said, the researchers also emphasized the system in which these people work: “Great systems are often more important than great people. A well-designed system filled with ordinary but well-trained people can, according to academic research, consistently achieve well above average performance.”I wish we saw more of these approaches. What works at your organization? Which of these ideas resonate with you? Who are your people and what are your systems?last_img

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