Over the years, through personal experience and observation of good and not so good practices, Howard has learned a few things about being effective and comfortable in the role of a fundraising leader. Here are his top five tips:
- It’s not about you. Fundraising shouldn’t be about you personally, or even about your institution. It should be about what your organization can do in the world, in partnership with a donor. Your role is catalyst and facilitator. Because you are representing a mission, you are not begging. You can and should be proud of the work you are doing. You are making the world a better place, and giving other people the opportunity to join you in that effort.
- Everyone’s a fundraiser. Your organization, top to bottom, is a sales team. Because critical donor interactions can begin with anyone, every staff member and volunteer must believe in your mission, and feel a part of fundraising efforts—even if that’s not in their formal job description.
- You’re the model. Look at your own attitudes and behaviors, because people are taking their cues from you. Remember: a leader is someone whom people want to follow. That’s especially important to remember when volunteers are involved.
- To be a good leader, listen. That also holds for donor interactions. I like how my grandmother put it: “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. And, if you try to talk out of both sides of your mouth to make up for it, that won’t work.”
- It should be fun! If it isn’t, you’re playing the wrong role, or not doing it right. I have a horror of cold calls; I like lots of information. Well, the people around me understand this, and help me with it. An executive director I know is fabulous at generating excitement and winning supporters, but can’t make an ask to save his life. Again, he gets the help he needs: a development officer is always close at hand when it comes time to make that ask.