Most people go to work for nonprofits with the understanding that they’ll be working long hours and working the equivalent of two (or more!) different jobs, so they tend to seek out organizations with missions they’re passionate about. But what other realities of nonprofit fundraising work should your new hires understand in order to serve your cause most effectively?
• The organization’s case for giving—why should donors trust this nonprofit with their charitable dollars? The case for giving outlines the need, conveys how the organization will solve the problem, and helps donors see their role in the solution. Staffers must understand—and more importantly, believe in—the case for giving in order to help convince donors with whom they interact that their support is critical and worthwhile.
• Basic fundraising metrics—how much your organization raises every year, from how many donors, and from what fundraising/communications channels (on-site, DM, EM, TM, Web, etc.).
• Industry benchmarks for performance by sector—what’s considered a “good” response rate or average gift in your sector? If you move from an advocacy nonprofit to arts/culture, you might be surprised at the differences.
• Retention rate and how many new members your organization must acquire each year to keep the file stable—underlining why it’s important to hold on to current donors and ensure they are happy and engaged!
• Data matters. All fundraising hinges on good data. So everyone with the responsibility for data collection and/or entry must ensure that names and addresses and other information is recorded accurately, and updated frequently. If you’re talking to a donor and notice their record doesn’t have an email address – ask for it!
• And perhaps most vital: the importance of donor stewardship. Keeping donors happy and engaged is the responsibility of all staffers. Everyone should work the phones periodically and attend member events to interact with the people who fund the organization’s work. Listen to complaints and solve problems. Turn a disgruntled member into a member with renewed passion for your mission. If possible, volunteer on the ground to see that mission in action. Monitor telemarketing calls if possible, to get the anecdotal scoop on what concerns donors, and what they’re thinking about.
The bottom line? Your new hires need to understand their scope of influence: Keep the organization’s mission top of mind. Know your metrics. Maintain correct data. Challenge yourself to respond positively to an angry donor, solve his/her problem, and make him/her want to continue supporting your organization. Teach your new hires that these are the best ways for them to contribute to your organization’s mission every day.