3 Ways to Boost Funds through Leadership
Leaders give us the energy and drive to move forward, even when times are difficult. Fundraising, for example, is usually listed as one of the most challenging tasks an organization is faced with. How often do we need leaderships to provide that surge of passion or encouragement to press on?
If there is one factor that separates a great organization from a good one, leadership ranks at the top of the list. Not only do we stay focused on what to do because of great leaders, but we also press on with more joy, drive, and energy.
“Our own times require of the laity no less zeal: in fact, modern conditions demand that their apostolate be broadened and intensified.”
Apostolicam Actuositatem, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity – Second Vatican Council
Why? Leaders have a clear sense that the less we do, the more we accomplish. They greatly influence our ability to focus on the essentials.
Too often, we can drift away from our core tasks because excessive demands flood our inboxes. Leaders recognize this reality and respond by eliminating the non-essentials. They also take on some of these duties themselves or delegate them to others. By doing so, leaders help everyone stay on course, including us as fundraisers.
If you’re a high-achiever like I am, you likely have more projects and ideas than time. It’s easy to think of racing to get as much done as possible. But maintaining focus and limiting tasks are both crucial. It can be incredibly helpful when a leader steps in to remind us what are our core responsibilities and goals. Therefore, great leadership is paramount to raising funds, inspiring donors and keeping the mission going.
As fundraisers, we depend on leaders because they help us understand what we are raising money for, and they inspire us with energy to find these resources.
Here are three leadership qualities that will improve your fundraising immensely.
Quality 1: Set clear and measurable goals
When setting the strategic direction of an organization, define a plan which has clear and quantifiable goals. The plan will turn the vision into reality while the goals will point everyone in the same direction. Together, the plan and goals connect with the fundraising targets so that everyone knows why the funds are needed and how the money will be raised.
If the board of directors sets a goal to double the team size in three years, this translates to more money and an increase in staff. The organizational structure, work habits, and culture will therefore also change. The leadership team sees these interconnections and, in response, lays out a plan to connect, manage and direct everyone to achieve these goals.
I was once asked by the board of a charity to double donations in one year because they wanted to increase the organization’s size. I presented my plan, which the board unanimously approved. However, when I politely asked that they define the overall organizational goals and targets to help me reach the fundraising goal, my words were met with silence. They seemed to assume that I would raise the money first, and then they would think about everything else later.
The results were dismal. For the first six months, I raised zero funds. Once the leaders stepped forward and became more strategically involved, the impact was incredible. Within three months, we not only raised the funds we were aiming for, we raised our yearly target.
Quality 2: Actively involved in fundraising
Leaders take an active role in fundraising by spreading the organization’s message and finding prospects. They do so in three specific ways: (1) donate themselves, (2) recruit donors, and (3) ask for donations.
Leaders should always financially contribute to the organization, giving an amount that is appropriate to their circumstances. Whether a board member is a corporate CEO or full-time mother, she should consider a donation based on her circumstances. Giving financially is important because it demonstrates to everyone, both inside and outside the organization, that the leader is fully committed. Also, leaders know that it is as much an honor for them to be on the leadership team as it is for the organization to have them involved. They, therefore, want to give back.
What happens if a donor approaches your leader saying, “I understand you provide strategic direction and advice to this organization. Do you, yourself, give financially?” What an awkward situation it would be if your leader responded, “No, I don’t give. I do, however, give generously of my time and expertise, and I think that is enough.”
What if your leader instead said, “Yes, I do give financially. I am passionate about what this organization does, and I consider it a great privilege to donate my time, advice and money to this great group of people.”
Second, a leader is directly responsible for recruiting other donors. Consider this scenario: you have five board members, and each has donated between $500 and $2,000 during a year. In total, you have raised on average $5,000. Then, each member recruits five more people to donate $500, raising an additional $12,500. In total, you have now raised $17,500.
This money could have an enormous impact on your mission. While you are the official fundraiser, your whole team should be helping to bring in funds, with the leaders setting an example.
Leaders understand that potential donors look to them for an indication of how well-managed is the organization. An inspired Catholic donor will think, “since the leaders are so involved and passionate about this mission, I know my donation will be used correctly and go a long way.”
Quality 3: Open to change and feedback
Leaders must also demonstrate the virtue of humility in two distinct ways: openness to change and feedback from others, both inside and outside the organization.
Leaders understand that the pursuit of greatness means adapting along the way. They know that the overall goal shouldn’t be to do everything correctly. Rather, the goal should be to do everything better. It is your mission and not individual egos that are at the heart of your organization. Therefore, change is essential.
As a fundraiser, you can confidently present new ideas because your leaders trust you and want to find ways of improving the mission. When you propose a change, a confident leader will openly consider whether and how to implement it.
Leaders also continuously collect feedback on how they and the organization are doing. They want to know what donors, followers, volunteers, staff, friends, etc. think of them and their team so the organization can constantly learn and grow.
Donors are attracted to great organizations. There is a tremendous difference between how much an excellent organization receives compared to an average one. I would say the difference can be as much as 100x more.
A leader’s attitude, contribution, energy, passion, and commitment are all crucial when it comes to fundraising. When an organization’s leader inspires someone, that person automatically ask the question, “How can I be a part of this?”
Leaders must, therefore, demonstrate greatness and become involved in all aspects of the organization, especially fundraising. When your leaders exhibit these three leadership characteristics, you will see the positive financial impact.