Updated: Jan 11
How many individual donors contributed to your organization last year? What percentage of those donors is connected to a corporate partner? What percentage of all donors return year after year? And what is the ROI on new donor acquisition efforts? Ask anyone who has been part of a professional team with me – as my supervisor, a direct report, a peer, or an outside consultant … and they’ll let you know that I ask A LOT of questions.
I start meetings with questions – and often I interrupt meetings with more questions. And discovery with a new client always starts with a (long) list of questions.
But why? Why not just present a plan and provide fundraising skills training that will apply to any situation? Why not jump in to solve the problems that have already been identified rather than digging up new concerns?
In a career that has allowed me to work with a variety of missions it has been my experience that no two organizations are the same. That seems apparent – and yet there are training programs that presume that one set of tools fits all. Training for long term success should start at the core of the fundraising plan, by asking the questions, and then it can move to find the right set of answers.
A one-size-fits-all solution is often part of the training plan. And yes, there are skill sets, in sales, leadership, efficiency … that can help all fundraisers. Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are tactics that will have similar results in St. Louis, MO and in Palm Beach, FL. National appeals do work – for the mass market team they are often the right answer for adding consistent touches to your donor base and/or acquiring new individual supporters. And the skills that enable successful face-to-face donor visits can be reviewed and practiced without local context.
But clearly this training isn’t enough. The average tenure of a fundraiser is, according to most reports, less than two years. It is our belief that this turnover can be addressed with focused and specific training that helps fundraisers not only to know the answers to a litany of questions (my litany of questions) but to understand which questions they need to be asking of their data and of their donors. Fundraisers who can identify and meet the needs of donors will help the bottom line both today and (perhaps more importantly) into the next fiscal years.
Good strategic training becomes great when it takes into consideration the unique opportunities of the community (Who are your donors - really?) and includes an awareness of the natural partnerships that come through the mission. These questions and knowledge may help to identify which fundraising channel could be stronger and they also may help the fundraisers to better identify prospects. Strategic training can also open the eyes, of a fundraiser or an organization, to the questions that can be asked to identify and engage the less apparent, non-endemic partners.
The answers are different for each fundraiser and each organization. Shouldn’t the questions be different too?
1. Ask questions to learn – not to catch someone in the wrong answer.
2. Ask questions to identify an organization’s hierarchy – who has the answers?
3. Ask questions to uncover shortfalls in the data – not in the individuals.
4. Be prepared to ask questions of your donors that will help you to meet their needs (more on that in another post!)
I ask questions because I don’t know the answers…. And because I want to help you and your organization find the strategies that address the challenges that you haven’t yet uncovered.
To learn more about mobilizing your team around the tactics and teamwork that might work for your organization – ask! Reach out to us at www.temkatandmouse.com and we’ll help find the answers (and more importantly, solutions).