Pardon me for writing you a letter, I hope you'll read it and it will start a discussion between and among us. You see, I feel like we need to talk. I know I know, you're off to visit a donor and don't have time, but read this on the plane on the way there.
I'm here to help you. I want you to be a fundraising rock star. I want us to be a team. Let me tell you how I can help you, and maybe how you can help me. You can even write me back in the comments below.
First, I'm here to help. I come from a place of yes, and I want others to as well. I'm excellent with details and rules and can navigate bureaucratic nightmares swiftly like a water moccasin. I'm a people pleaser who just needs a little positive affirmation and some team work and wow can I move mountains for you. I seem to be able to pull of the impossible, and deliver it with a smile. Behind the scenes I'm sometimes exhausted and frustrated, it's just reality, but I sure do love what I do.
Here's where you can help me help you.
Put information in the database and communicate that information. It will help everyone, not just me and you, and is a good thing for our organization. Unfortunately your average lifespan at an organization is 16 months. What you leave in your wake after you leave is me, your teammate. I need that information to help you write acknowledgments, plan great events and steward gifts effectively. If I don't know your donor's wife is allergic, I may mistakenly send her flowers because it's a nice thing to do.
Invite me to meetings from the beginning. I really need that seat at the table and that trust of you to bring me in the loop. I promise to be quiet and listen unless I have something really crucial to add. I'll never take credit for your idea or hard work, I just want to be there so I can help you from the start instead of being brought in too late at the end and creating a less than stellar product.
Don't assume I don't know what it's like to raise money. I do. I get it. Alumni and donor relations isn't a default for those who can't fundraise. I love my work and I want you to understand what drives me to help make fundraising successful at our organization. I actually have some great fundraising thoughts and want to help you.
Help me brainstorm on ways to help you engage and delight your donors. Please don't just drop an idea on me and walk away. Donors want three things: access, information and experiences. They don't want coasters, tote bags, pens, honor rolls and stuffy dinners. I can order a really thoughtful gift for your folks, but it won't have our logo on it. Allow me to be a creative professional and use the unique qualities of that donor to help surprise and delight them. See why it's important you communicate that information to me?
Events don't fix anything. In fact, they're often drains on resources. They're not fundraising magic bullets to fix the fact that no one has visited these folks in a while. Events don't equal engagement. Let's work together to come up with another option for us to engage and recognize our donors. There's only so many heavy hors d'oeuvres a person can eat. Also, don't ever say the following words, "golf tournament" please and thank you but NO.
Please let's not promise anything to donors unless we know if it's possible. Let's review the gift agreement together and make sure we can deliver on the things the donor wants. Having to undo a promise is awkward and just no fun.
Finally, there are rules to fundraising. They're there for a reason. AFP, CASE, IRS, etc etc.. If I bring up these rules, don't fight me. I don't like them either. But they're there for a reason. They help protect you, me and our donors. No one wants to feel smarmy. We want giving to be a joy, but it does involve paperwork. So help me get you and your donors through it. My goal in life is to never end up on the 11o'clock news, I promised my mom. Help me keep my promise.
Please reply and let me know what you think. I'd love to hear from you.
Don't worry, it's not just you I'm writing to, in the coming weeks I'm going to write a letter to the following folks: my VP, my boss, direct reports, the data team, and others.