Advice for a new Fundraising Director

Advice to a newly-minted Fundraising Director

Philp R B&W

 

Philip Roethenbaugh, a skilled fundraiser and our expert/go-to Associate Consultant for fundraising services shares his considerable knowledge with fundraisers via a series of blogs. 

 

 

Becoming the Fundraising Director of a national charity was a goal I set myself quite early in my career.

Once I attained this ‘lofty’ position, whilst my fundraising skills were well honed, the learning curve suddenly steepened. As the manager of a large department and a key member of the wider leadership team, new skills had to be learnt quickly and some old habits broken.

Whilst I suspect some things in life have to be learned through personal experiences (the hard way) there is room to benefit from the experience and mistakes of others.

My top 10 tips for new Directors of Fundraising

 

 1. Fully embrace your place at the ‘top table’ 

Don’t let misdirected humility and self-deprecation undermine your position of leadership. That’s no good for anyone. You’ve earned this, so don’t be intimidated. Your new peers may have more years experience, but never see yourself or operate as a ‘junior director’. Look into ‘imposter syndrome’ if this tip resonates. Fully play the role you’ve been given. Remember, you are always being watched! Your conduct and standards of behaviour can have enormous effects (positive or negative) on your team and the credibility of the organisation.

2. Consistently sell a vision for your department

Leave no-one on your team in doubt as to what standards are expected, both personal and professional. Deal with transgressions swiftly and consistently. Use a number of methods and situations to explain what success looks like. Be prepared to repeat yourself – often.

3. Really know you numbers (financials, fundraising targets, historical data etc)

There is often a lot of this to remember, so keep a summary with you at all times. Refer to it frequently, until the numbers are imprinted on your mind. Easy recall will enhance your authority within your team and across your peer group.

4. Trust your team of experts

You don’t have to be the guru of every fundraising technique. Hire the very best people you can afford, trust them to get on with their work, but remember you are entitled to question them and expect evidence for the conclusions they come to. Delegate the tasks, but never delegate responsibility for the outcome.

5. Manage upwards effectively

For starters, do follow the old adage of “under-promise and over-deliver”. But more than this, really get to the bottom of what your CEO deems is most important, beyond the obvious of hitting income targets. You need to influence the rules of the game. What could be (objectively speaking) a great year for your department, will not be seen as such if there is a mismatch between goals agreed at the star of the year and those achieved. Don’t allow yourself to be set up for failure by goals or targets that are not realistic and not suitably resourced.

6. Fight for investment in fundraising

Do your homework; build compelling evidence for your arguments. Repurpose those same powers of persuasion you use when inspiring donors to invest. Stand up against those that would starve fundraising, by a misplaced devotion to reducing all ‘overheads’ at all costs. See Dan Pallotta’s excellent TED talk on the subject for encouragement.

7. Use your political savvy

Understanding the political power dynamics within the trustee board is essential (See the last point). You can either be buffeted by them or harness them to achieve your goals and what is in the interests of the charity’s beneficiaries (mutually inclusive I would hope!). The key to this is getting to know each trustee personally to understand what motivates them. It may not be what you expect, or actually what they say it is. You’ll need to discern this yourself, partly based on their actions.

8. Be an internal ambassador for fundraising

Don’t expect other departments to appreciate or even understand what your team does. Get out there and share the good news of how fundraisers support them in achieving their aims. Demand equal professional respect between your team and those working directly with beneficiates. Each needs the other.

 9. Take action now for 2026

It is tempting to focus almost exclusively on this year’s needs. Be brave enough to lobby for the long view. What will the person in your chair in 10 years time be pleased you set in motion? A community fundraising programme, a robust legacy marketing cycle, a management training programme?

10. Get a mentor or coach

You may now be the most experienced fundraising practitioner within your charity. So if you haven’t done so already in your career, you’ll need to look outside to find the people to learn from, challenge you and enable you to reach higher.

11.  Relax and enjoy yourself!

I said 10 tips, but really there are 11 and this is important.  You’ve got one of the best jobs out there, one in which you can have an enormous impact on an important social issue, with people that share your passion.

 My recommendations for further reading:

• ‘How to Lead’ and ‘How to Manage’ two volumes by Jo Owen (pub. Prentice Hall). You’ll never look at management and leadership the same way again. Very practical, very clever, ideal for ongoing reference.

• ‘Four obsessions extraordinary executive’ by Patrick Lencioni (pub. John Wiley & Sons). I fully recommend working through Lencioni’s full works.

‘The Porcupine Principle’ by Jonathan Farnhill (pub. DCS) – Equally insightful and entertaining. Ideal to share with new recruits to fundraising.

Purple Vision and Fundraising

Purple Vision can help with fundraising requirements across the spectrum of technical, people-related and strategic.  Our services include:

We can help with full strategic reviews of your entire fundraising operation, or help you to focus on a key area you’re keen to develop.  We’ve been fundraising consultants since 2003, and our fundraising people are committed and passionate about supporting non profits to grow and achieve their full potential.

To find out more about fundraising services, call Keith Collins – Customer Solutions Director – via 0845 458 0250 or use our online contact form.

Building Journeys

I spoke at CHASE 2016 (#CHASE2016London if you want to check the twitter action) today, and included a template for starting to build journeys.

For those at the session it’s linked here so you can open it as a PDF.

Journey Toolkit -Build a Journey

More explanation to follow shortly for those of you that weren’t in the audience and are wondering what on earth I’m talking about!

Non Profit Starter Pack

What’s the NPSP – Non Profit Starter Pack?

It’s the basic out-of-the-box Salesforce package to help non-profits get to grips with fundraising via Salesforce CRM.

Why Upgrade?

NPSP 3 was released last year. NPSP 3 offers comprehensive updates that make managing a range of non-profit interactions more efficient, and adds new features, too.

Since then, some have upgraded, while others have held back. The reasons for not upgrading are as wide and varied as the non-profits using Salesforce.

  • Time is a big factor since hours in the day are limited, and I’ve yet to meet anyone in a non-profit who sits twiddling their thumbs wondering what to do next.
  • Fear is another. If you’ve spent hours getting your data in shape, and working out how the system works, even training and supporting others to use it too, there will naturally be a fear that an upgrade will change things and you’ll have to start again with the training (see Time).

I think we have to be honest, too ― the path of least resistance is also a well-trodden trail. If there’s no compelling reason to change something, or no immediacy, then it’s easy to ignore it or keep moving it down the list.

All these are, within organisational context, are fair enough. But we think the reasons for upgrading *are* compelling.

Our 3 key reasons why you should upgrade to NPSP 3:

  1. Not getting left behind. Other non-profits have already upgraded and are able to take advantage of the additional functionality. The extra features will help with your day to day tasks, and ultimately mean you will get smarter reporting and be able to make better decisions about your funding, relationships and direction of travel. Don’t get left behind when you could be enjoying additional benefits.
  2. Compatibility with other packages. The Non Profit Starter Pack is just that – a starter pack. As demand grows and more users are adopting it, more third-party developers and members of the community are building add-on packages that extend the Starter Pack. Many managed packages and apps for non-profits are built to be compatible with the NPSP code base, so it’s possible that packages you have or may want to have in the future may not work on anything but the latest version, or may not work optimally on an older version.
  3. Automatic updates. When you’re using NPSP 3, new updates will automatically appear every 2 weeks. Yes, 2 weeks. That’s how fast things can change and develop. These updates will be a mix of fixes and new features. If you’re not on NPSP 3, you’ll miss the automatic upgrades.

If you’re still not sure about upgrading, ask for help. There’s plenty of it around – via the free Power of Us Hub (you’ll need your Salesforce login) release notes and documentation (via the Hub Knowledge Base), as well as the Upgrade Webinar recording.

Alternatively, you can ask a Salesforce.org Partner for support. While you will have to pay for this, it may be the fastest way for you to make the upgrade. Purple Vision is one such partner that you could ask.  We’ve got years of experience of supporting non profits to adopt Salesforce as the CRM of choice – both with the Non Profit Starter Pack and with other managed packages for fundraising, operational and service delivery and more.

What’s included in the Upgrade

There’s something in NPSP 3 for everyone, whether you’re a technical or functional user. Salesforce Administrators can enjoy some smart new features that will make life much easier, such as a Health Check that automatically checks data for inconsistencies and makes sure that settings are still valid.

But the biggest change for admins is the automatic upgrade – bug fixes and releases will just be auto-rolled directly to your Salesforce instance in the future.

Overall, the biggest changes are around architecture – and six packages of code have been consolidated into one single package, making future upgrades even easier. NPSP will also work more effectively with the Salesforce1 Mobile App.

The other updates are around Accounts, Contacts and Opportunities, with a range of new options available to you to configure as your organisation requires. The ability to set a primary contact for each a household is one example.

Make the move today

There’s a lot of extra support for making a move to NPSP 3 in February – (it’s NPSP Upgrade Month – I bet you didn’t have that on your calendar), and throughout the year. Extra support is a good thing and accessing it wherever you can is going to help. Make sure to sign up for ‘office hours’ (dial an expert) and visit the Power of Us Hub Upgrade Group for advice from others doing the upgrade, too.

Resources: