The Crux – Aligning Fundraising and Programming

You’ve probably been in one of those stores—the kind where you feel sorry for the employees because they are trying to sell merchandise that is completely undesirable. You may politely walk down a few aisles before walking out the door, or you may immediately turn and leave, not wanting to waste your time.

Unfortunately, this same experience happens in fundraising. If what we, as fundraisers, are trying to “sell” to our donors is clearly not appealing, donors may browse, even give a small token donation, but they don’t become long-term donors.

The reality is: Good programs need good fundraising, and good fundraising needs good programs. Your nonprofit cannot operate programs at their maximum effectiveness without adequate funding. But if your organization’s programs aren’t optimized for fundraising, you’ll struggle to raise the funds to keep them operational, let alone to increase their success.

As fundraisers, it is one of our responsibilities to partner with our program colleagues to make sure we are operating programs that are fundable, and funding programs that are superior. So how do we achieve this fundraising nirvana?

Get to know your program staff.

Listen to what your program colleagues are excited about, and what worries them about fundraising. Explain why you love fundraising, and what excites donors when you talk to them about the programs.

Visit a program site or a project.

Visit a program site or a project with a program staff person and discuss it together. Be transparent: ask them to explain the project to you in the simplest terms possible.

Ask to be part of the project design.

Ask to be part of the project design before the grant-seeking process, explaining what role you desire. Your purpose is not to dictate the terms of the project that will (hopefully) be funded, but rather to ensure that there is something about it that makes it incredibly more appealing to the average donor.

Work with your project staff to get the photos and human interest stories you need.

Don’t complain that you don’t have the resources unless you are willing to be part of the solution. If your program staff are your only source for these materials, teach them what separates great resources from useless ones.

Celebrate the successes together.

Give the project person who took the great photo credit—if not in print, at least publicly in a staff meeting. Knowing their efforts are appreciated only encourages your program partners to provide more.

Fundraising and programs need each other; in fact, we are both stronger when we work together. Here’s to collaboration that leads to true success—in our programs and in our fundraising.