As an undergraduate at the University of South Carolina (Go Gamecocks) my first major was genetic engineering. After discovering that Calculus 4 and the laboratory life weren't for me, I changed my majors to foreign languages, with the goal to one day be an international translator. Well, although I don't do that for a living, my translational skills are not lost nor do they go unused on a daily basis.
I find that one of the most essential positions for fundraising success is someone who can translate the communications between fundraisers and those that help make them successful. I'm talking reporting, advancement services, donor relations, research etc. I think there is a fundamental difference in the way these two groups of people talk about donors, data and its impact on fundraising for the organization.
Let's take a look at this relationship and communication dynamic. Paint with a wide brush with me and allow me some grace here:
Fundraisers, for the most part are extroverts, building relationships and working in the cerebral space of relationships. Our data folks, are introverts by nature, and they work in the process oriented space and the cerebral space of data's impact on the greater picture. Often times, fundraisers struggle with the ability to communicate to the data folks WHAT they need and WHY they need it. Data folks are concerned with outcome of the data and ensuring that its value is not underestimated. Thus, the role of the divisional translator becomes inextricable from the operation. Someone who can understand the delicacies of fundraising and as I say "speak geek" and understand data.
This is an art and a science and can be found in folks in all types of roles. I'm a hidden data nerd. Data drives everything I do and informs many decisions for me. It is helpful that in alumni and donor relations I can balance the relationships with the data.
Here are some tips I have learned to help the translators:
- find a common vocabulary and set of definitions, what's a non donor to someone is not to others. This is ESSENTIAL
- explain the use of the data and the need for it, WHY do you want the report and HOW will it be used once provided
- appreciate that data doesn't just arrive at your feet, it takes work, time and effort just like cultivating a gift does, and sometimes just a long
- understand that both individuals have unique skill sets and that's ok. A database manager may shudder at the thought of asking someone for money and a fundraiser may get nauseous at the site of a query.
- work together for the common good and try to find points of mutual understanding in order to better serve the one population we all share: donors
What are your thoughts on divisional translators? Who serves in this role in your organization? What tips and tricks do you have to add to this list?