There was a discussion recently on Pamela Grow’s Grantwriting blog about how program people and foundation staff don’t like to talk to fundraisers. Heidi Massey’s guest post got a lot of comments. She’s a program staff person who can’t stand to talk to fundraisers, and she’s met foundation staff who feel the same way.
This is ridiculous because fundraisers are there to help program staff get the money to do their job. And foundation staff would never find out about a nonprofit unless someone was acting in a fundraising capacity.
Why are fundraisers so hated? Because we have to talk to others and convince them to give to the cause? Because we seem fake if we’re trying to market the cause? Because we can seem out of touch with program realities?
If it weren’t for fundraising, we would not have the president! Barack Obama raised just under a billion dollars over two years. How did he do this? He hired fundraisers. He poured a lot of money into his campaign, and it gave him a lot of return. He got what he wanted. Until we have better campaign finance reform, fundraising is necessary for politics.
It’s also necessary for nonprofits to exist, period. Do you think it just happens by accident? Do you think fundraising is a necessary evil? If it weren’t for us, you wouldn’t have the money to do your programs. Is that what you want? Less resources? Or for the nonprofit to go out of business entirely? What’s the deal?
It may be overstating the obvious, but fundraising keeps you afloat. Like you, fundraisers have a hard job with little reward. If your fundraisers seem out of touch, then INFORM them how you would like to communicate. TELL them about programs. HELP them understand what it means to be a program staff person on a day to day basis. They’ll be happy to listen, and tell you about their reality too. Stop hiding yourself in your part of the building.
Fundraisers are there to build relationships, and that includes relationships with you. They really do want to talk with you. They believe in the mission too. You have things in common. Go out for coffee together. Tell them one thing that annoys you about them. Tell them one thing that you like. You’ll start to trust each other, and open some doors. If they are a good fundraiser, they are going to be open to building relationships with you. You can ask them for help with your programs, and they will ask you for help with theirs. You can both get a lot out of this relationship.
If you’re foundation staff and you’d rather not talk to fundraisers, then say you’d rather talk with program people and leave it at that. The fundraiser has plenty of other things to do.
Personally, I did not experience hostility from foundation staff, but I did experience some hostility from program staff at a former workplace. When programs are in a different place than fundraiser offices, it’s easy to lose track of what’s happening in the field or at another location. It’s easy to start to make assumptions about program staff, to have an “us versus them” mentality.
Start building trust! First of all, who is a person you trust? How did you build trust with them? Think of two more people. Then look at your nonprofit. How can you build trust with program staff or fundraising staff? Start to reach out.
Set up Systems for inter-organizational communication to help mitigate this gap. Do you have a system for communication in your organization? If not, why not?
What do you think?
Have you experienced hostility from program staff or foundation staff as a fundraiser?
How did you handle it?