How to get your director to love you
Let’s presume you have this great innovative idea for recruiting new donors and there is just one hurdle to overcome: a ‘final go’ on the extra budget from your director or management team. For some of us, this is a piece of cake. Your director understands fundraising, sees it as an important aspect of his/her position and knows how to judge a business case. If this is familiar to you: skip this blog.
For the rest of you, stay tuned! To find out what we, as fundraisers, can improve, I interviewed a couple of general directors of Dutch NGO’s and asked them one simple question: why can’t we get along with each other?
It was more than interesting to hear their response. First of all, most of them unfortunately recognised the tricky relationship with fundraising. Some of the directors typified this in terms as ‘not too smooth’ and ‘we don’t seem to speak the same language’. But secondly, they came with some surprisingly easy tips for improvements.
One director told me that every year it was the same story: fundraising would surpass the income ambition. Nothing wrong with this you would guess, but from a director perspective it can be different. The yearly forecast of fundraising was for this particular NGO (like many others) directly linked to the program budget. The head of program was less enthusiastic to find out in the end of the year that they could have done more.
It seems that fundraisers are very keen and focussed on realising their year ambition. Because of this they prefer to be ‘modest’ when setting targets. Let’s be honest: there is not much fun in adjusting your income target downwards and explaining this to your director.
This specific director found this defensive behaviour and ‘tactical modest forecasting’ rather hampering the planning possibilities of the management team. Her advice: be ambitious and make risk analyses of possible drawbacks during the year that could influence your performances.
2. Fundraising is not rocket science
One director told me that it seems that fundraisers love to create a sort of blur around their profession. With abbreviations and phrases that are not common for everyone within a NGO. This director advised us to take the management team along by explaining the key parameters and the business drivers you are working with. Make fundraising comprehensible: the concept of ‘life time value’ is not something everyone is familiar with. He discovered that he loved fundraising as soon as he got a grip on it with the guidance of a (patient) head of fundraising.
3. Financial planning
Another director spoke about the improvement in the relationship with fundraising as soon as the long term financial planning of the organisation was set on paper. This sounds obvious, but there are still NGOs out there without a long-term strategy. And when they do have set this point on the horizon it is often lacking a financial substantiation. Meaning, there is a clear view on the program ambition (for example: more impact with microcredits, more empowerment of local partners) but there is no estimation of the needed budget for this in the long term.
It is this financial long term planning that can connect the fundraising and program department on management level. It brings in line the program ambitions and the long-term goals for fundraising. The budget needed in the long run by program put in relation to the different income sources (private, institutional and corporations) makes instant clear what the value of fundraising is for the organisation. Or as the director of a NGO put it: It has put fundraising on the agenda of the management as an essential part of our strategy, rather than a support department.
In the end it’s of course not about a director loving you, but to get a better understanding of each other perspective. And a mutual understanding of was you heading for. Just try it and keep us posted how you succeed!
Note: Many thanks to the directors and head of fundraisers who were willing to share their frustration and their suggestions for improvement!