So who gets the money?
Many of my fundraising projects have involved organisations that were new to fundraising. They often thought that the appointment of a fundraiser removed the pressure and responsibility of getting the money from their shoulders. Huge sigh of relief; let him get on with it. This was followed by the shock realisation that my appointment actually meant additional work for them. Fundraising is a joint effort. SO who gets the money? The answer is everyone who has an interest in the outcome of the project.
The need for teamwork is even more important in the current circumstances. Everyone is aware that COVID 19 has placed many organisations under financial strain, so the scrutiny of Funders has increased. The question they are naturally asking themselves is whether funding the organisation is a good investment or merely delaying an inevitable demise? Reassurance from the fundraiser that everything is fine and dandy might elicit Mandy Rice Davies’ oft misquoted response, “Well he would say that wouldn’t he”. In the current environment Funders need access to the senior staff for a full understanding of the organisational situation.
In my role as Grants Administrator, I talk to all the organisations that we put on our short-list to be considered for a grant. The aim is get a better understanding of the activities of the charity, its challenges and opportunities, and the leadership. I want, therefore to talk to the people who run the show and deliver the service. And I nearly always find that they want to talk to me. They are keen to explain their work and share their passion for what they do. They are genuinely pleased that someone is taking an interest.
When my conversation, as Grants Administrator, is with the fundraiser it naturally lacks that depth of knowledge. They are not on the front line of service delivery. So it is difficult for them to convey the commitment for the client group in the same way as those who have the lived experience. This can be important when weighing up the allocation of grants.
I carry that lesson over into my fundraising role. The Fundraiser may find the prospect but I always emphasise that it is the people who are involved in the project who do the convincing. Fundraising is a team effort and the collective effort is vital to success.The narrative in my post Getting Lucky Again provides a good example of this. The best advocates are the people who do the work, because their knowledge and commitment are irresistible sales tools. Funders like that sense of engagement and involvement.
Sometimes, particularly in medical research and treatment, the best advocates aren’t even on the team. They are those who have benefitted. Often the best fundraisers don’t even know they are fundraisers because they just tell the story of what happened and the miracle of the outcome. Nothing can take the place of the lived experience and the lived outcome. You can’t imitate that.
As a Fundraiser, no matter how strong my commitment to the cause, I have in the back of mind that my narrative is ultimately about securing a grant. The person whose whole focus is on the potential of the project is my preferred choice as prime persuader. It doesn’t have to be the most senior person. Often it is a junior whose enthusiasm shines through, lights up the room and demonstrates just how much of a team effort is involved.
The structure of the team is essential to success. Read more about it in Fundraising the Essentials for Success, in the section A Winning Team. Each person is there for a specific reason from senior endorsement to junior enthusiasm. So who gets the money? The team does!