It’s Good When it Works

I had a great conversation with a program staff member the other day. Maybe I’ve become a little bit jaded in my time as a fundraiser in that I don’t expect program staff to like me or respond well when I ask them for answer of constructive input. I’ve worked for too many organizations where a program staff person does not feel that it is part of his or her role to spend any time explaining what the program is and how funding will impact it. Traditionally I have to drag them through the process.

I’ve also found that the funder/grantor side of the system sometimes becomes too efficient. There are hundreds (actually probably thousands) of foundations giving money for student scholarships, food for the homeless, global health. Don’t get me wrong– that is a really good thing. But, after a foundation or business has received 100 requests and given a couple of grants, they start to settle into the business of the process.

A few days ago, a program staff member came to me with a new idea about what fundraised dollars could do for their program and a new group of funders we could approach. The program staff member got really excited about the questions that I had and excited about working with me to create an inspiring proposal that would speak to this specific funder population. While we were building the proposal we started the conversation with the new funder pool. She got really excited about this new idea; about what she could do to make real change in an area that she believed in.

We will always run into business as usual; none of us have the ability or energy to work on everything for the first time. In fact, it is usually the business-as-usual organizations and individuals that make the biggest contributions and biggest difference for our nonprofits. But, it is always refreshing when you have a moment that reminds you of why you do what you do. It makes a difference in my day when, for a moment, I’ve caught a glimpse of the difference I’m really making.

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2 Responses to It’s Good When it Works

  1. Jon Hearty says:

    Good article. I think there has been a major disconnect between the act of donating and the good that the donation provides. The closer we bring these two actions together, the more people will give and the better they will feel about doing so.

  2. Janice C. says:

    It’s a two way street. If you ask for input from the programming staff, then you need to follow through. Program staff get jaded as well. Say a funder/donor has a certain vision for how things ought to be done, and this conflicts with what program staff think is the best way to help the people they’re serving. But they have to do it the funder’s way because of an agreement that somebody else (generally not involved in programming) in their organization made in order to get this funding. I’m not saying that either the funder or the program staff are right or wrong, but it always creates a lot of tension.

    Development staff can be really good at asking donors about what their passions for and how those fit with the organization’s mission/programs. But it’s important to remember to do the same for internal clients as well. If program staff who feel like they can come to you with their needs, and the needs of their clients, they’re more likely to also come to you with ideas and stories that you can share with your donors. Everybody gets a little burnt out from time to time, but we get burnt out most of all when we feel like we can’t make a difference or like we aren’t being heard or respected.

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