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Now all departments must deliver for the donor

Blog post   •  Jun 15, 2016 22:11 BST

Now, all departments must deliver for the donor.

(or, if you do everything: Now, you must deliver for the donor with all the hats you wear ….)

In the UK, it is just about to get much harder to simply ask people for money. This will happen everywhere else, too, through legislation or market saturation.

This change, sudden or gradual, signals the decline and ultimately the end of commoditised fundraising. Pumping out relentless, increasingly urgent need won’t be allowed, or work. The pack factory will have nowhere to send its increasingly strident, demanding and cheaper demands for ‘cash, now, or else.’

The solution will come from those clever enough to realise early that this change means that their fundraising ‘product’ must now be so good that people want to come to them. They must do so willingly, enthusiastically, passionately and with loyalty and commitment. They must fly a flag, not send a ransom demand.

(I use the term ‘product’ to wrap-up (1) the quality and impact of programmes work, (2) the results delivered for beneficiaries, (3) the quality of donor service and (4) how the organisations meets donors’ needs, emotional and rational.)

I am optimistic about the future. It’s got probably lower volumes, but higher value, for some organisations, certainly.

Which organisations? The ones who focus and work harder on having a better product. The organisations who focus and work harder together on having a better product.

Fundraising departments cannot create the best product alone. Quality needs the diligence of the programmes department and their time and skills to give fundraising what they need, on time and regularly. Impact and results need finance and programmes to co-operate. Donor service needs the whole administrative function to be relentless in its detail and enthusiasm. Meeting donors’ needs? Well, the organisation that works out what these are will need to embed this understanding everywhere. So the first people who need to understand these are the CEO, the exec team and the board. The lead on the core product can come from nowhere else. Once they focus on the donor, the rest of the organisation must, too.

If programmes are too busy, finance are too controlling and stingy, leadership lack the knowledge and understanding and (heaven forbid) communications and branding are too obsessive and just plain irritating then internal cultures grinding against each other will mean constant compromise and internal debate rather than the focus being where it needs to be – the donor.

The organisations that will succeed in developing the best product are the ones who succeed in bringing all departments together to understand and deliver for the donor.

Leadership is crucial to this. The board, CEO and exec team set the culture and an aligned, inspired, organisation wide culture is the somewhat abstract but precise and essential definition of ‘the better product.’ It’s a difficult concept to grasp, but those organisations who ‘get it’ will succeed.

My prediction for the next 12 months? Some organisations will squabble internally until it’s too late. Others will move quickly, align, involve all their colleagues and fly – both financially and in delivering their impact on the world.

As smaller organisations will be able to align, inspire and deliver across all departments (and board) more quickly, perhaps their fundraising time has come?

© Alan Clayton, May 2016

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