Hard to believe, but it’s been almost 25 years since I became a fundraiser, working for a large nonprofit, managing its monthly donor program.
At the time, the development department consisted of someone responsible for donor appeals, another for acquisition of new donors and someone for major donors. Everybody was responsible to raise a certain amount a year. In those days, monthly donors “touched” the other departments, as we were only converting new and existing donors to give monthly.
For a while we all “played” nice, but as the organization grew, the “silo” mentality took hold.
For example, once a donor hit the $1,000 giving level, they’d move to the major gift area. They were “taken” from the direct mail stream and moved to a more “personal” process.
Suddenly, the donors weren’t receiving appeals any longer. The donor appeal department started losing these substantial donors, and results by department were “suffering.”
Every individual department needed to raise a certain of dollar figure, and that’s what they were held accountable for. A “battle for the donors” started happening. Sound familiar?
The siloed departments had their specific goals, but:
- They were not focused on the donor. How did he or she wish to be communicated with?
- They were not long term or organization-wide. Conversion of donors to give monthly or the upgrade of donors to give at higher levels was a good thing and crucial for the organization’s results.
The good news is that we’ve all come a lot farther since those days with reviews of donor surveys, donor journeys, donor relations departments, etc.
The sad news is that I still come across so many nonprofits that approach their budgets by “department,” instead of looking at the donor, the long term and the big picture, and making it happen by pulling in all resources (and get the leverage to do so).
If you hear the term, “it’s not my area,” watch out!
Donors don’t see silos. They don’t understand it, nor should we want them to! They wish to give in certain ways that may not fit your silos. They may have a relationship with someone who’s moved to another department, but they want to continue to hear from that person. Donors may wish to start making their big one-time gift through smaller monthly gifts. They may not wish to get personal visits any longer, but they want you to send them every appeal, because they love everything you do.
You may ask, why am I writing about this? Because it’s the silos that tend to be major hurdles in growing monthly donor programs that run across all donor levels and departments. Everybody (including management) needs to stop looking at which silo raised the most or reached their goal. Rather, think about the big picture: which donor feels loved, is more loyal and gives more money. Your nonprofit may give up something in the short term, but will benefit overall and in the long term!