We often talk about building a fundraising culture in our organisations, but what does that mean? How do you go about it?
We asked some FIA Conference 2020 speakers and conference program committee members for their thoughts.
“A fundraising culture in an organisation means that everyone – from the receptionist to the CEO and everyone in between – understands the importance of asking people to support your cause,” explains Alice Anwar, head of individual giving at Care Australia, and the 2020 FIA Conference Program Committee Chair.
She says too often, staff outside the fundraising and marketing team think asking for money is “bothering people,” when that’s not the intention at all.
“It’s giving donors the chance to be active participants in making the world a better place. It also means understanding that fundraisers are experts with a specific skill set and giving them the room to do what they do best – build meaningful relationships between the donors and the organisation,” Alice adds.
Success is also much more likely when everyone across the organisation is motivated to participate in fundraising activities. Here are eight tips to make it happen.
1. Make fundraising an organisational-wide responsibility. When the onus of fundraising shifts from just the fundraising and marketing team to everyone – staff, senior management, board members and volunteers – people will often feel it’s the right thing to do and participate. Let them choose the level of involvement they feel comfortable with.
2. Talk about fundraising with everyone in the organisation. “Fundraising starts with building good relationships across your organisation, and that does not mean sending people emails,” says Erica Larke-Ewing, Cancer Council Tasmania’s director of marketing and fundraising.
“This is about sitting down, chatting and listening. Once there is trust and good communication, then your colleagues will remember what you do and why. We encourage all staff to volunteer at our fundraising events so they can take part in the fundraising action. This approach does create great conversation amongst the fundraising team and the service delivery side of the organisation,” explains Erica.
Jennifer Shailer, head of customer experience at Australian Red Cross, thinks organisations need to focus more on creating a customer-centric culture while building the fundraising culture.
“At Australian Red Cross we have moved to ‘agile squads.’ Each squad is a cross-functional team all focusing on delivering exceptional work together. Although we are still learning, we have seen silos removed, and we have real clarity on what everyone is working on and why. The ‘why’ is the understanding, empathy and respect for each other’s skill set and objectives.”
3. Spend time with program staff on the ground. While fundraisers have a busy workload, it can pay dividends to bond with program staff in the field. They’ll respect you for spending time with them to learn more about program delivery. This strategy could go some way towards building a strong organisational fundraising culture. You’ll also get regular field stories to use for your fundraising efforts!
4. Ask everyone in the organisation for fundraising activity ideas. You can gather teams together to brainstorm new and creative fundraising ideas. If the whole organisation comes along to work out ways to raise money, they can generate more ideas, increasing the chances of successful outcomes. If it’s too challenging to get everyone together, you could send out a short email survey requesting ideas by a particular time.
Cancer Council Tasmania undertook an all-organisational team exercise to drum up fundraising ideas with great success.
“At a recent all-staff forum, the fundraising team split the organisation into groups to see who could come up with the best suggestion for a bumper sticker. So much fun and some great suggestions emerged,” says Erica.
5. Train people to be fundraising ambassadors. Non-fundraising staff, volunteers and board members can attend occasional training sessions in fundraising essentials. You could also include sessions on how to help at fundraising events or ways to talk generally with people about the importance of gifts in wills to your organisation.
This kind of training is not designed to make staff professional fundraisers, but to ensure they can have a friendly conversation with anyone about the cause and why they are passionate about it.
6. Tell inspiring donor stories. The next time you hear a donor’s compelling narrative, why not share it? While many organisations announce big donations or bequests, why not go further and share the story about your inspiring donor and why they love your cause. Such story sharing will make donors relatable to staff.
Damian Topp, chief executive at PA Research Foundation, thinks it’s essential to bring the tales behind donations to life.
“How many of us have told our CEOs or chairman about a significant bequest and only had a response to the amount of money? We need to tell stories. Talk about the culture, about the link to the cause. Introduce every staff member to a donor. Teach your team about philanthropy being ‘the love of humanity,’ and don’t just talk about fundraising,” he suggests.
7. Seek out support for each fundraising project. Often, it’s just the major community events where everyone pitches in, but you could also involve staff across the organisation in non-solicitation activity like writing thank-you notes to donors, helping with mail appeals or assisting at more intimate bequest/donor thank-you events. These activities are often more successful with staff assistance.
8. Get the CEO and board in your corner. Staff often look to the chief executive and board members for behaviour modelling as these people set the standard for the organisation. Invite board members to fundraising events, ask for their assistance on activities, or if they would be willing to use their networks to raise funds. If management and the board are enthusiastic about fundraising, it’s likely staff will follow.
Want more tips on how to embed fundraising in your organisation? Make sure you are attending FIA Conference 2020 to learn lots more!