We All Need Each Other—Why Going Solo Doesn’t Work: How Program Can Inspire Your Donors!

As she stepped down from the podium, a thunderous burst of applause rang out.  Everyone in the room was standing at their seats.

Was it the CEO they were applauding?  The EVP of Development?  No, the people in the room were applauding the head of the program who had just given the audience an incredible “front-line” report about the work they were doing,  along with how the donors had made it happen.

I witnessed this event several weeks ago and, I have to tell you, I was speechless.  It really got me thinking, “How often do major gifts UNDER-UTILIZE the folks in program to cultivate, steward and ultimately inspire more gifts from their donors?

The answer?   All the time.

I’ve actually heard about some organizations that don’t allow development folks to talk with their program people.  That is absolutely insane!  It’s not surprising though.  For some reason, there has been an inherent mistrust between development and program.

If you talk to the fundraisers, they’ll tell you that program people never give them what they need to educate and inspire their donors.  Likewise, program people will tell you that development folks are never telling the truth about what they do and only care about money.

The fact of the matter is that fundraisers NEED program people in order to do great work and inspire their donors to make large gifts…well, actually, any gifts.  And program folks need fundraisers to…well…to have a job and an actual program.

You would think these two “needs” would help bring both groups together.  From my experience, this lack of trust happens when we don’t take the time to get to know each other.  It’s classic: we always fear the unknown.

So, what do we do?  Well, I think both fundraising and program need to walk in each other shoes a while.  Huh?  Yeah.  It’s called empathy.

Here is what I’d love to see more of:  the fundraising team getting involved in the work that program is doing.  If you do fundraising for a hospital, you should go volunteer your time and see what it’s like first-hand.  If you do relief and development work in Africa,  go over there and work with program people, getting your hands dirty and really understanding what these good program folks have to do all day.

And program people?  Sit down with your fundraising team and have them show you how fundraising works, the metrics, the use of storytelling and why some offers work better than others.  Come to an understanding of the direct link between what you do and what they do everyday.

Then, fundraisers need to take you program people on some donor visits.  Yep, let them take you with them and tell donors first-hand what your organization does.  Not only will this be amazing for the donor, it will be eye opening for you, the program person.

You don’t know how many times I’ve been in a room with development folks when I just want to cry out loud, “For goodness sakes,  go over there and talk to them.! They are not bad people and if you really got to know them they would be your best source for getting great content.”

And, for any of you program folks who read this, fundraisers are here to help you.  Really.  We believe in what you do.  Help us when we ask for a good story about someone in need, or someone who has been helped.  Say, “YES!” when we ask you to speak to a room full of donors and tell them how much you love them because they help you do your work. Tell us when you think we’ve done a good job with a donor.  Let us, help you.

Remember…we all need each other.

Jeff

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About Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry

Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry have over 55 years of experience fundraising for non-profits. Richard Perry was co-owner of Domain Group until 2005. Jeff Schreifels was a Senior Strategist for Domain Group for 12 years. They came together a few years ago to start Veritus Group, a full-service major gift fundraising agency. Veritus Group has a unique, data-driven approach unlike any agency focused on major gifts. Jeff and Richard are passionate about their work, passionate about life and hopes this blog will provide you with insights and tangible benefits for you and your work. Thank you for reading!
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