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How-to Library • Featuring articles from past issues of Contributions

Staffing for Fundraising Success

By Jonathan H. Spinner

It has become fashionable, especially in these difficult times, to call for greater cooperation between major gift officers and planned giving specialists. In theory, the calls have been made by appealing for displays of greater teamwork or more efficiency. In practice, the results have been asking planned giving and major gift operatives to go on solicitations together, especially for major annual fund gifts. The results have been mixed, with half-hearted efforts – depending on whom the donor is closest to – by one or the other professionals.

The big question is: why doesn’t such joint solicitation efforts result in better coordination and more positive attitudes – let alone results -- on the part of either professional fundraiser?

I suggest the answer lies outside the realm of either major gifts or planned giving, or even outside the realm of development, but will be found in the human resources office, the CEO, and the board of directors.

The Frozen Silo Effect

In many mid-size and large development office, professional fundraisers stay in their silos – major gifts officers working their major gifts, planned giving specialists dealing with their bequests and legacies and more “exotic” trusts, annuities, and advisory funds. The major gifts officers like to think of themselves as more “bottom line” oriented, while planned giving specialists consider themselves cultivators and stewards of long-devoted givers.

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The result is a refusal on either side to believe there can be much to say to one another, let alone accept the logic that any joint solicitation effort can succeed, and such beliefs often harden into dogmatic certitude leading to professionals being “frozen” in their particular silo. Efforts by development office CEO’s to unfreeze the silos soon run into this wall of certitude, and eventually wear down all attempts to create a team. Things remain status quo, until the next development office CEO cycles through and tries again.

Creating a Cross-Silo Team

Why don’t appeals to team work or suggestions that such working together can lead to bigger annual gifts and greater planned gifts work? What is the missing ingredient?

The missing ingredient is a misunderstanding of what motivates the professional fundraiser. Yes, professional fundraisers believe in the mission of the organization they are working for, and yes, they will work hard to provide the resources for that mission. But they are not volunteers -- they get paid to cultivate, solicit, and steward donors. In other words, to unfreeze the silos, CEO’s and boards must use money as the fuel in lighting a fire under the development office.

The Role of the Human Resources Office

To help the situation, Development Office CEO’s should ask the Human Resources Office to examine the criteria that are used to define how development personnel are measured in terms of pay raisers and bonuses.

It is not uncommon that the criteria reward the major gifts officer for how many gifts are closed, and the planned giving specialist for how many contact meetings are held with prospects. But such criteria do not encourage teamwork. How about adding as a measure of success the number of major gifts closed through a joint major gift/planned giving solicitation or the number of cultivation or stewardship meetings held with a major gift officer as part of the team?

With such a measure of success known and understood by the development professionals, and with their pay raises and bonuses affected by such criteria, major gifts officers and planned giving specialists will soon find their own ways to work together and create effective teams.

The Major Stumbling Blocks

It seems to be a simple solution, but the major stumbling blocks to instituting such a program are organizational CEO’s and boards of directors. Increasingly, institutional CEO’s are bottom line oriented and less concerned with the long-range impact on their organizations. In some instances, boards of directors are placed in their positions by the same CEO’s and take their cues from them.
Other boards of directors, while more independent, are also driven by annual year-end, bottom-line goals, and need to be convinced that such a change will have an important impact on the organization’s ability to be successful in fundraising.

The key to providing proof that such reorientation of the rewards criteria will amount in more effective fundraising is tracking the impact teamwork has on annual giving derivatives, like planned annual campaign endowment gifts and bequest testamentary contracts over an 18 to 24 month period. These will positively impact annual giving while setting the stage for large-scale, whole estate agreements over the three-five years.

Why? Because working with major gift officers will sharpen the planned giving specialists’ ability to tell the story, while getting a better sense of the impact long-term, donor-oriented approaches can have will increase the major gift officers’ ability to assist in stewarding such gifts to fruition.

The development department CEO that works with human resources departments to set up such measurable and effective criteria will have better success in getting institutional CEOs and boards to approve such approaches, and will then have a much more effective tool in getting fundraising professionals to try a team approach with greater enthusiasm.

Dr. Jonathan H. Spinner has been involved in the not-for-profit world for 36 years in executive and fundraising positions with small agencies and national and international organizations. He has managed capital and endowment campaigns from the micro to the monster in the United States and Canada, and has personally raised millions of dollars in face-to-face solicitation. Now President of Real Fundraising, he trains campaign solicitors in a unique style that maximizes personal interaction with the donor, and is a speaker and trainer on a wide range of development issues, from major gifts solicitation training to staffing issues in not-for-profits. For more information, visit http://www.real-fundraising.com/



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