3 Tips to Turn Programs & Development into a Power Couple

June 23, 2014

Today’s guest post comes from Rachel Muir, CFRE.

One of my favorite fundraisers recently told me, “Rachel, it’s like programs and development had a shitty divorce and they’re only speaking to each other because of the kids.” Does that describe the culture at your nonprofit?

You may have divisions between programs and development or in your own fundraising department, for example major gifts versus direct mail, midlevel vs major gifts, major gifts vs planned gifts, etc. My colleague Erik Tomalis explores how getting credit for the gift pits departments against each other costs dollars and donors and how to overcome it in his recent article, Whose Donor is it Anyway?

How can you get your programs and development teams to play nice in the sandbox?

It starts with understanding what motivates each department: how they think and what they value. Programs live in the details of the how and the what. They may not know donors, can feel intimidated by them, and feel at the whim of development or a donor’s ever changing passion. Development lives in the bold dream of possibility. They may wish programs could be more flexible and are likely craving more personal stories from programs to fuel their donor’s passion.

The bottom line is that we play different roles but we’re all raising money, even if we never make a face to face solicitation. So how can these two teams kiss and make up? Here’s 3 ways to move your power couple from dysfunction to dynamic:

  1. Sit in on each other’s meetings.  Development should come to program planning meetings. Programs should sit in on fundraising updates and development planning meetings.
  2. Shadow each other in the field. What better way to have more appreciation for a face to face solicitation than to see one firsthand? Likewise, seeing programs in action can give development meaningful stories they can share first hand with donors and a new found appreciation for programs.
  3. Make each other cheat sheets. Programs can provide development a program menu to help them better understand projects. Development can make programs updated lists of donors and donor prospects. It may seem time consuming but this is an invaluable resource to help programs make critical connections with donors and donor prospects they may be serving in the field. And what development professional couldn’t use some help with donor prospecting?

I learned how to create a culture of philanthropy the hard way – through trial and error in my 12 years at the helm of Girlstart. If you want to learn how to create a culture of philanthropy at your organization please join us for a free webinar on Wednesday June 25th at 12pm CDT. You’ll hear lots of tips from the trenches and walk away with key insights to start your transformation. If you are headed to the Bridge Conference join me and Girlstart’s Deputy Director Julie Shannan for Programs & Development: The New Power Couple on Friday, July 11 at 8:15 am.

Rachel Muir, CFRE is Vice President of Training at Pursuant where she transforms individuals into confident, successful fundraisers. When she was 26 years rachel-muir-150x150old, Rachel Muir launched Girlstart, a non-profit organization to empower girls in math, science, engineering and technology in the living room of her apartment with $500 and a credit card.  Several years later she had raised over 10 million dollars and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: