What is your advice for building collaboration across a development/advancement department?
McCabe Callahan began Community Funded in 2011 out of his passion to provide a platform for communities to support the things they care about. Community Funded works with fundraising departments of all sizes and levels of sophistication to build sustainable digital fundraising ecosystems.
Building collaboration between development and other advancement departments is becoming more and more important as we shift towards a new paradigm of fundraising. While each department has unique and specialized responsibilities, collaboration can better foster an overall culture of philanthropy. Remember that, just like a culture of philanthropy, collaboration between what are typically siloed departments is a process and not an endpoint.
The first step in the process is to re-affirm the mission, vision, and values of the organization while creating buy-in and excitement. Show the various departments what unites them to give everyone a singular agreed upon focus.
The second step is to clearly re-define how each of the individual department efforts compliments the overall effort of advancement. Show how the parts of the whole are essential to achieving desired outcomes and key results. Create cross-functional teams for projects allowing each team member to be responsible for their specialty and provide feedback to others on their work.
Lastly, celebrate the victories as a collective group. Leadership has a specific responsibility to be cheerleaders as their teams work together to achieve results. Any measure of success has to include how well teams worked together and complimented each other outside of the metrics of dollars and donors. Essentially, reward collaborative success and highlight collaborative efforts.
In the end, you will always see better results when you leverage the networked intelligence of the entire department over the individual efforts of a few.
John Taylor is an Advancement Services expert, educator, speaker, and consultant. He formed one of the largest Advancement-related listserves in the world, FundSvcs, now with over 3,100 subscribers. He is the founder and former President of the Association of Advancement Services.
It is now more important than ever for us get our collective act together. Times are changing, and gone are the days when donors are willing to make unrestricted gifts to a school for us to do as we wish. Restricted giving such as project-oriented fundraising and crowdfunding is on the rise and requires a significant amount of collaboration.
Crowdfunding platforms are great for running multiple campaigns and meeting a wide variety of priorities and opportunities. What is critical for success are some key factors that are influenced by collaboration:
- Coordination of appeals. Multiple areas of the advancement department must come together to ensure we are not inundating our alumni with appeal after appeal. This requires conversations between annual fund, advancement services, fundraising units, and marketing.
- Internal vetting and approval process for crowdfunding campaigns. It is one thing to raise money for a new research initiative. It is another to solicit funds to replace a department’s microwave. Institutional Advancement needs to be involved in identifying and approving the crowdfunding activity, ensuring it is aligned with institutional priorities. This vetting could be done through a group with representation from various areas of advancement such as annual fund, marketing, major gifts, and advancement services.
- Ensuring a single standard approach to crowdfunding. Having uniform branding standards while allowing for each unit to specifically customize their giving site, requires specialized collaboration. Marketing, the units, advancement services and annual fund all need to work together to make certain that standards align across a platform while allowing for unique customization of campaigns.
- Reducing data entry. With the common platform, Advancement must develop an automated interface, to the extent possible, with their Advancement CRM in order to reduce duplication of manual data entry. Advancement needs to be at the table from the beginning working closely with the annual fund to make sure data flows to the right place.
Meg Weber is the Executive Director of Annual Giving at Colorado State University, a Community Funded client. With over 18 years of fundraising experience, she is a frequent speaker and contributor across the higher education industry.
Three effective ways to build or increase collaboration across your advancement department.
- Draw a map. When you make a change or implement a new project, map out the process you will have to go through to implement and the process your donors will have to go through. Then identify each group that has a role in each step. This is who you need to communicate with about your projects.
- Make sure all areas who may be impacted are at the table on any given project from the beginning. Be as inclusive as possible. Even if you aren’t sure that a project will involve a specific group, it is better to give them the opportunity to opt out of a discussion than for an area that you didn’t anticipate being affected to be caught unaware. Leading by example this way usually means that you will be included in more things too.
- Get social. Go to lunch or happy hours with people who lead the groups you work with often. Getting to know people outside of formal meetings helps you know more about how they think and what they like, and can help you be a better partner. It can also get you a little grace when you need it.
BONUS: A little appreciation goes a long way. After a particularly challenging or time-consuming project, bring in breakfast or some other treat for the teams that helped you.
Carol Pott is a versatile content strategist, branding, and organizational design specialist with over twenty years of strategic communications experience using a data-driven approach to developing authentic, goal-oriented, mission-centered content. She is the Senior Development Director at City of Hope.
We talk a lot about gratitude in development. Mostly that gratitude is focused on the donors and supporters and all they do for our organizations. But if we direct a bit of that back to the internal philanthropy team and encourage them to see the impact of their work — their contribution in action — a culture of collaboration comes to life. Collaboration not only empowers team members to see the value of their work but connects the team to the larger effort and ultimately to each other.
Imagine this scenario:
You look fabulous, darling!
Dressed in your Armani suit, you jump in a taxi to attend an event honoring a prospective donor. You’ve done your homework and know a lot about the prospect and her family, but you check your phone on the way just to be sure you are up on breaking news.
Walking in, you notice women dressed in fabulous gowns and men in black tie. Oh no! You think about fashioning a wrap in your purse into a bespoke look, but instead check in with the event team who greet you with excitement, “Can’t wait to hear your presentation! We have you slated for the 6:00 pm time slot right after Jimmy Fallon.” You nearly drop your phone, mumbling some expletives as your heart skips a beat. What on earth can you say to represent your organization moments before Jimmy Fallon comes on to charm the crowd?!
The woman from the events team hands you your table assignment and, as you stare blankly at her, she looks at you with consternation and offers to lend you a dress. The gown is a little tight, but you hit the bar before you head to your table with a representative glass of wine you won’t drink.
Looking at the name cards around the table, you realize that you aren’t even sitting with the prospect you researched, but are next to a current major donor and his husband, people you have heard about but don’t know enough about to address them with confidence. You toss back the wine, as visions of your failed speech and a late night fumbling over small talk dance in your head.
This nightmare scenario is, unfortunately, a pretty common one. But with a culture of collaboration across all the teams in philanthropy you can ensure frontline fundraisers are equipped to succeed.
Imagine this instead:
Two weeks before your event, you check in with the events team who fills you in on the people seated at your table and confirms the event is black tie. You are asked to introduce Jimmy Kimmel and set the tone for the evening. The research team provides you with profiles on the prospective donor and each of the people at your table and lets you know that the prospective’s mother was hospitalized recently and provides profiles for other major donors expected to be in attendance. Research also provides some current media references and relevant new stories. Your stewardship team mentions that two of the donors at your table have recent gifts and attended the installation of a memorial plaque the week prior.
A week before the event, you interface with the communications team to develop talking points for your speech. You want your speech to pop with humor, so they run some jokes by you and you choose one you think will appeal to your prospect. They also let you know that some donors at your table are interested in supporting research with a particular doctor and give you a profile of the project.
With just days to go, the event team lets you know the schedule and confirms that you don’t have to attend the cocktail before, slating you instead to arrive with just enough time to work the room and do a bit of networking before you go on.
Dressed to the nines, you look fabulous and the car arrives as scheduled. You go over the talking points and profiles and step out with confidence, greeting the prospect and asking after her mother as you walk into the event. You charm the guests at your table, honoring the memoriam and talking about the research areas they are interested in. When the time comes, you wow the crowd, introducing Kimmel with a big laugh and representing your organization with an engaging story that reflects the organizational mission and draws people in. You stay through the hors-d’oeuvres and the first course and excuse yourself, getting home in time to read a goodnight story to your kids and kiss your spouse goodnight.
Organizations that silo and compartmentalize groups within philanthropy or recognize only the frontline face lose out on the increased morale and organizational commitment that comes with acknowledging and honoring all the work that makes a single gift possible. The second scenario is only a reality with collaboration and a coordinated effort across all of philanthropy: research, communications, stewardship, and events. All of these teams need to be represented to equip your frontline fundraising team with the tools they need to bring the gift home. And when the gifts come in, it should be a celebration shared with the entire organization — after all, it was their synchronized effort that made each gift possible.
Lynne Wester strongly believes that donor relations are the key to unlocking fundraising success. Lynne and her teammates at the Donor Relations Guru Group partner with nonprofits on a variety of initiatives from developing sound strategy and vision to utilizing technology and creating meaningful donor engagement – all designed to positively affect the fundraising bottom line.
My advice is to make friends with colleagues and to foster collaboration by encouraging social time — lunch, breakfast, drinks, anything to break people out of their monotony and get to know them. Also, I like to break people out by having them focus on the donor experience, not just their own experience. This really works well.
Jennifer Harris is a seasoned fundraiser, a holistic thinker, and an impact communicator. She is the Founder and President of JH Collective, Inc. (www.jhcollectiveinc.com) and has spent over 15 years building expertise in organizational and communications planning, board design and development, staffing and coaching. Jennifer is drawn to Community Funded’s empowered approach to philanthropy but the views featured here are her own.
I’d love to push this inquiry further: How can we development professionals claim to work in organizations that are touted for being “collaborative” or “cross-disciplinary,” if we aren’t doing these things within the advancement function?
In an article I wrote recently, I urge readers to hold a mirror up to our profession, to view fundraising like connective tissue in a human body, to see that it simply cannot and frankly does not exist independently, without institutional and departmental programs, operations, or functional units. I dare us to think deeply about its inherent collaborative nature, as if its sole purpose is to obliterate silos in service of social change.
This way of thinking has been a game-changer for me throughout my career. Here are some tidbits that may help you and your team:
- Hire Holistic Thinkers: Holistic, what? When you evaluate your pool of applicants for any position, I recommend seeking professionals who exude a holistic mindset, systems thinkers, utility players, cross-trained or trainable thought leaders and staff who understand how the sum of the institutional parts connect to the larger whole; candidates who see organizations, people, and situations as interrelated. This person may be hard to come by, but I believe it’s well worth the wait.
- Map out the Intersections: When I worked in house, I used to take my staff into our conference room to doodle – imagine concentric circles and arrows galore. I wanted to ensure all of us knew exactly where we positioned (between campus, the school of medicine, the health system, the research enterprise, development, marketing, communications and advancement and more). It was often a gritty exercise. Hard lines and dotted lines. Blurry lines even. And then I would ask: How were we serving each area? How were we being resourced by each area? Who did we need to build relationships with? What were the challenges? What were the opportunities? In the end, this helped us get clear – especially about what we were not clear on; it became our road map and it informed our course of action.
- Build Community aka Committees: I know, I know. Committees can be a bear, but depending on the complexity of your organization, it’s a great way to get all key leaders, influencers, and stakeholders in one room; it fuels group-think, allows for shared resources, and ultimately breaks down barriers to communication. I am most proud of my efforts to design and ignite two functioning committees: the inaugural DevMarCom Committee (bringing chief communicators across development, marketing, and communications on both health sciences and on campus together) in addition to the very first Faculty Development Committee (that brought faculty thought leaders with competing priorities together to help advance a unified culture of philanthropy).
4. Spark Curiosity: As a young professional, I was often told that I was up against a mountain in key areas like nursing (they wouldn’t buy in, so I heard). Later, I learned similarly in my own office, that the development officers didn’t want to do culture work – that they didn’t care about the institutional story or integrative communications (they were driven by metrics and metrics alone). In an effort to understand what was being lost in transmission, I began interviewing nurses and medical leadership as well as my colleagues. I learned further that the complexities run deep (historically and operationally) and so all I could do was share information that I believed would help further their goals as nurses, as physicians, as researchers and fundraising professionals. And so, I designed a workshops: one for faculty, physicians, nurses, and staff, entitled, “Embracing a Culture of Philanthropy and the Importance of Grateful Patients” and another that centered on organizational storytelling for development officers, both of which I use today, both which sparked curiosity in individuals and in teams, and both of which clear the path for communication and collaboration.
Julia Campbell is an author, coach, and speaker, and trains nonprofits large and small on the best ways to use digital tools to raise money and awareness for their organizations. She is the author of Storytelling in the Digital Age: A Guide for Nonprofits, and her blog on online fundraising and nonprofit technology is consistently featured in the list of the Top 150 Nonprofit Blogs in the world. Find her blog and contact information at www.jcsocialmarketing.com.
In my work with nonprofit development and marketing departments, I see confusion, resentment, and miscommunication happen. In order to build collaboration across departments, frequent open and honest communication must happen, whether that is in the form of one-on-one meetings or group training sessions where all ideas are valued, no one is made to feel stupid or “less than”, and there is a respect for the work and the skills that each member of the department brings to the table. Starting each meeting with an impact story, reminding department staff why they are doing the work, and sharing accomplishments/celebrating successes can work wonders for morale also.
Matt Wasserman has over 20 years experience in the field of fundraising developing and integrating innovative practices. He is the founder of MPW Strategies.
Here are five ways to build collaboration across your advancement department:
1) Put yourself in your colleague’s shoes: Take the time to understand what it’s like to be a major gift officer, or in donor relations, better yet the work of a gift processor. Shadow these folks for the day and understand their everyday challenges and goals and objectives.
2) Demonstrate transparency in your work and how it effects colleagues’ areas: Once you understand their work and day to day life, think about how your role and responsibilities impact their efforts. If you are in major gifts could your connection and relationship with school or college leadership help annual giving in their messaging and solicitation, or if you are in donor relations can you help major gift officers with activities to build engagement with prospects.
3) Develop a system that rewards collaboration: While collaboration should be expected it’s also great to have some acknowledgment or reward. This might be difficult to do if you are not in leadership. However, you could ask if your collaborative team could tell their success story at a department meeting/all hands. Or invite your group of collaborators to lunch or happy hour.
4) Believe in the mission and the greater good of the organization: If you are guided by the greater good your institution provides and understand how the advancement department impacts the mission, then you should be able to partner with colleagues towards achieving the ultimate vision.
5) Leaders need to lead on collaboration: It does come down to leadership. If you are not in leadership you can certainly do the above and have collaborative victories, however, nothing is more important than leaders setting the example of collaboration.