What if I told you lacking financial resources is not your problem? Your problem is resourcefulness. Most associations and organizations have more dreams than cash in the bank. Whether working with associations, non-profits, or even speaking during seminars that I lead, I often hear worthwhile goals. These visionaries know where they want to go to find success, but often view financial resources as a roadblock. What if they didn’t have to be? How do you find the financial resources you need to accomplish your goals? To answer this question, I turned to a top fundraiser, Clarenda Stanley-Anderson, to seek some input. I had five burning questions, and I knew she could answer them. Take a look:
If an organization is considering an initiative that requires funding, how does that company identify a professional fundraiser?
The first place to start is within your networks. Put the word out among your circles, Professional fundraisers with proven track records are often hired through referrals. Another place you would look is organizations with similar initiatives and missions. Who is already fundraising in this space and doing it well? The average period a fundraiser is with an organization is two years. This is largely in due to the fact that other opportunities present themselves. This doesn’t mean that you woo the other organization’s top fundraiser away, but instead look at the junior, up and coming talent.
Also, do not overlook in-house talent. Do you have a program manager that has taken the initiative to secure resources in the absence of a development officer? Is there someone on staff with transferable skills? Of course, using contract fundraisers is always an option. You will get a seasoned fundraiser well-versed in best practices. The cons are that the contract fundraiser will not have institutional history, the fundraiser will be limited in the relationships they are able to build with donors, and a contract fundraiser can cost considerably more. Contract fundraisers may be more practical for special events, grant-writing, or providing training to current staff and board members.
In all fields there are those that ‘get the job done’ and those that just merely coast along. How does an organization find a ‘get the job done’ fundraiser?
It is important that the fundraiser has demonstrated results in applicable experience. It is easy to be impressed when someone has raised $10 million, but what if they raised that through grants and the organization is looking for someone to raise major gifts? Also, the organization should find out if the fundraiser is a self-starting, entrepreneurial thinker. A simple conversation asking the right questions will give you clues to this person’s drive and passion. Are they able to make decisions independently? Come up with creative solutions to problems?
Passion fuels action. Make sure that you are hiring a proven fundraiser who is genuinely passionate about the organization’s mission. That is key in order to build authentic relationships with donors and colleagues.
I must mention that organizational leadership has to understand the role of the fundraiser. An effective fundraiser will yield results – not miracles. The organization’s executive leadership and board have to understand their roles in the fundraising process. Many times, they will be the ones to make the ask. A strong fundraiser will ensure that the leadership is prepared for this role and that the ask is made at the appropriate time.
What are three questions an organization should ask when interviewing a fundraiser?
What gift are you most proud of and why?
Give an example of an ethical dilemma you faced with a donor or prospect and how you handled it?
How do you see yourself advancing our mission and why?
You obviously have a stellar track record raising money for groups. Give me three things that you attribute to your success.
I only raise money for causes that align with my philanthropic core. There are organizations who are able to pay more or offer better benefits, but if you make that the determining factors, you will soon burn out. I also recognize that fundraising is an ever evolving profession so I am committed to being a lifelong student to ensure that I stay abreast of current trends and best practices. Lastly, I am a firm believer in self-care. I take vacations, surround myself with positive, affirmative people and am active in hobbies and passions that allow me to unplug from my professional life.
What advice do you have for organizations that have dreams and goals but lack the funds to make things happen? What could they do right now to move the ball just a little down the road?
There are a ton of free resources out there to help an organization get started. A couple of my favorites are the Association for Fundraising Professionals (most local chapters have member scholarships) and the National Council of Nonprofits. Both have a wealth of free tools and resources on fundraising.
Do your research and compile a list of questions. Then, ask a fundraiser for 30 minutes of their time to answer a few questions. We are some of the most generous people around! Community foundations are a great place to find fundraisers who are eager to help. Rely on your volunteers – those people who proved they are committed to advancing your mission. Employ them to assist in fundraising.
Lastly, look at various grants for capacity building. Foundations are recognizing the importance of a fundraiser to an organization’s sustainability and are funding initiatives to help organizations create a development office.
Clarenda has offered five nuggets of knowledge that could take your fundraising to the next level. But remember: Resources are rarely the stumbling block. Resourcefulness is. So, dream with me just a little. What good could your organization do if money were no longer an obstacle? What type of campaigns could you launch? How could you create change for your members? Let’s be resourceful and make things happen in 2017!
About Clarenda Stanley-Anderson
Selected as the 2016 Outstanding Fundraising Professional by the Association for Fundraising Professionals Triangle Chapter, Clarenda is a generalist who has earned the coveted Certified Fund Raising Expert (CFRE) designation. With more than $51M raised in her decade-plus career, she specializes in individual giving and major gifts. She currently serves as Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Shaw University where she spearheaded the University’s 70% increase in private philanthropy last year. She can be found on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.