Staff or Money? How to Accomplish Both

March 25, 2019

What comes first, fundraising staff or money? It is a conundrum faced by many charitable organizations. To raise money you need a team and a talented team raises more money, so where do you start?

With a litany of needs and requests to raise dollars, organizations often feel pressure to grow their development teams. How do you balance the need for staff that can cultivate deep donor relationships, administer your infrastructure, keep on top of research, develop meaningful collateral and still plan ahead for success?

The good news is that it can be done! By investing in the right people, any organization can grow to raise many more times its current annual budget!

The small charity or ‘start-up’

At this stage, you’re more than likely using a consultant who can bring a wealth of instant knowledge to your fundraising program without a long learning curve. However, if you haven’t already done so, you may be thinking about investing in a full-time position that will have oversight of your fundraising operations. This is a great first step to building a sustainable program and for long term success. It’s important to be clear what areas you want your consultant to focus on vs. staff. This will greatly impact who fills the staff position. Will you need someone who is strictly operational or someone who can also write proposals and cultivate donors? (Tip: a CEO can focus on donor solicitation while a dedicated staff member can plan and grow the program).

The ‘growth-mode’ charity

Charities in growth mode likely have a Director of Development and a small team consisting of gift officers and administration.  With dollars coming in the door, the Director is often under pressure to grow total raised dollars and branch out into other program areas such as major gifts and planned giving.  Strategic planning still needs to happen, so it’s not uncommon for the Director to feel very stretched! Once again, having a trusted consultant is of great value. It is akin to having an extra set of hands on the team that already comes with the knowledge and experience to help you branch into areas that you might not otherwise have the capacity for.

This does however point to the critical importance of staff training. There’s no better investment than to train your growing your development team and increase their capacity to raise more money. This investment has a great outcome, as an average major gifts officer can be expected to raise 3.3 times their own salary as a target metric. (Tip: don’t forget to also grow your administrative capacity. Your gift officers should be cultivating dollars, not tracking them!)

The established charity

The established charity is in an enviable position. They likely have a full team, infrastructure for administration, and perhaps even specific roles such as prospect research and gift processing.

Strive for excellence and taking your programs and people to new heights by focusing on best practices. Program reviews and data audits are helpful in allowing you to identify areas of growth and opportunity.

This is also the time to focus on core activities. Many a development team is challenged by scope creep and the notion that a bigger team can handle more and diverse (dare I say “unrelated”) projects. By focusing on your core objectives, you’ll strengthen existing areas of fundraising, allowing them to become stronger. (Tip: with a larger team and more staff, take time to invest in your culture. Make sure everyone feels well connected to your mission and each other!)

No matter where you are on the growth continuum, there are always tactics that you can implement to strengthen your team and raise more money. As consultants, we at Good Works have worked with charities of all shapes and sizes; sometimes we’re helping build the roadmap, acting as an extension of a fundraising team by developing and executing campaigns and sometimes we’re helping our clients do retrospectives through data audits and strategic counsel. No matter where you are on that journey, you are doing good work in this world. And for that, we think you’re AWESOME!

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Jennifer Benedict

Jennifer Benedict