Yesterday you heard from Janice Chan, this month’s Featured Fundraiser. Here are a few more tips and thoughts from Janice.
What tips/advice do you have to other fundraisers in your field?
Our job is to support programming – to give our program staff the resources they need to effectively serve our clients, accomplish our mission, etc. So I think it’s very important to make sure that we as fundraisers (and marketing/communications people) have a solid understanding of what our organizations are actually doing and how and why. Certainly, good internal communication helps, but sometimes the best thing is to go see (and do) things for yourself. Obviously the way in which you do this will depend on the types of programs and services your organization offers, but go help out at camp or read books to young patients or share a meal with the clients in your soup kitchen. If you can talk with the clients and/or spend a day in their shoes, even better. So often, we’re busy and we’ve memorized the mission statement and our elevator speeches, but it’s easy to get distanced from the actual work of the organization. Not only does spending a day in a program staff member’s shoes give us a better understanding of what we’re raising money for, it also reminds of why we’re doing it.
In addition, you build rapport with your coworkers and stop coming off as another out-of-touch development/marketing person who just doesn’t get it. I work at a fairly small organization (at least small for a national organization), and we couldn’t do some of the events (fundraising or programming) as successfully without “all hands on deck,” as we like to say. And I’m sure it is the same for many similar sized and smaller organizations, but the bigger the organization, probably the more important it is to step out of our usual roles and into someone else’s. Teambuilding isn’t about three-legged races and group exercises: it’s about knowing that at the end of the day, you’re all one team with one mission, and that when you need help, your teammates will have your back and vice versa.
What past experiences have provided helped you do your job better?
I was a writing tutor in college, and the class we had to take to become tutors was probably one of the most broadly applicable classes that I took in college. The generic model we worked with was the persuasive essay, since that is the type of essay most students would be presenting. That class and my experience as a tutor (working with students at all levels and with various goals) really drove home the importance of audience and of building your case or message specifically for that audience—the understanding of which is critical to marketing, communications, and building relationships. There are probably lots of other helpful little things I’ve picked up along the way, but this is something I think about with almost everything I do. The other thing I use all the time is oft-repeated advice on planning: start with what you want your end result to be, and work your way backwards.