By Siobhan Aspinall
You know your fundraising plans are bang on, but you’re faced with a management team that resists your ideas. This is can happen in any sector, but can be a real challenge in the fundraising field.
Part of the reason is that fundraising best practices are not always widely understood, so your boss might not know how to assess your suggestions. Another tricky bit is that many fundraisers do not have the same targeted educational background as other specialists. For example: You are a working as a brain surgeon and tell your hospital’s CEO that you need sharper scalpels. Is that CEO going to second-guess you? No sir! But if you’re a fundraiser with a Bachelor of Arts in Italian Studies (ahem) the boss may be more reluctant to accept your advice.
Get out into the real world and bump up your education! Go to every seminar, course, webinar and conference you can get your mitts on. Go to meetup.com and find local professional groups to join. Get a membership with your city’s Association of Fundraising Professionals chapter. And most importantly, tell your boss and colleagues. If you don’t share your new-found skills, how can they recognize you as the new team expert?
Or go with a virtual approach and sign up for information through blogs, e-newsletters, etc. By keeping up with evolving best practices and new ideas in the sector you will increase your perceived (and actual) knowledge value at work. But once again, don’t hide that little light under a rock – educate the whole team by sharing the information.
Consider bringing in an “expert.” You will look like a hero if you contact a colleague to present a new idea at your next fundraising meeting. Pick a trusted contact with experience and good presentation skills to talk about the ideas your management team doesn’t understand. It’s not fair, but people often value the ideas of someone outside the organization more than those of the staff! A side bonus for the colleague is that she’ll get experience in professional presentations that will help build her own career.
Note that solution #3 works incredibly well for fundraising managers and executive directors looking to educate board members. Board volunteers often have minimal knowledge (and maximum fear) of fundraising and should get ongoing education on this topic at every board meeting.
In any case, all of this information will not only bring your team up to speed, but will build your own fundraising and leadership skills as well. Good luck!
Siobhan Aspinall, CFRE has been fundraising for over 13 years for non-profit organizations including the Canadian Cancer Society, the David Suzuki Foundation and United Way. She is currently the Senior Manager of Development at Junior Achievement working primarily in grant-writing and major gifts. She teaches two fundraising courses at BCIT, consults, and is both a board member and professional development committee chair for the Association of Fundraising Professionals. She holds a BA in languages from UBC and an Associate Certificate in Fundraising Management from BCIT. She obtained her Certified Fundraising Executive designation in 2013. In her spare time, she writes for her fundraising blog and surfs in Tofino.
Sand Dollar Consulting