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Making Connections with Your Team to Advance Your Mission

Have you ever heard a fellow team member say, “I could never ask people for money,”? If I had a dollar for every time I heard programmatic or other non-fundraising staff say this, I wouldn't have to go after as many grant applications!

This comment represents a common denominator among nonprofit organizations that I work with—the fundraising arm of an organization isn't talking to the programmatic arm about the work they're doing, why it's important to them, and vice versa. This lack of internal communication leads to the creation of silos. For example, a grant writer sets unrealistic goals and objectives in a grant that are outside of the scope of work for their existing programs. Others refer to this issue as “mission creep.” I have a simple method to avoid this issue and open up channels of communication that will ultimately lead to greater fundraising success for your organization.

As grant fundraisers, most of us have our prepared elevator speech for an introductory phone call or for that initial cultivation email prior to submission. One of the key components of an elevator speech is that it's personal; the other is that it is consistent with all of your organization's communication materials. You can apply a story that connects others to the mission of your organization, or you can determine what makes your mission resonate with a potential funder. Have you checked in with other team members, such as a volunteer recruiter, to ensure that the message that you're sharing with grant funders aligns with what others are saying? Do you have an idea of why others on your team are invested in your organizational mission? It's probably not for the money!
One of the best ways to learn from other professionals in your organization is by facilitating a mission moment discussion with as many staff members as possible—you can go big and request to do this at a staff meeting, or you can set up individual meetings with program staff or teams. You have probably experienced mission moments at board meetings, or perhaps at a staff meeting. They help to center your discussion and to give gentle reminders about why you do the work that you do. If you work for a mid- to large-size organization, connecting on this topic is a wonderful way to get to know other team members that you don't interact with as frequently.
I recently led a training about my process for grants fundraising at a local nonprofit that had gone through some significant staff changes. I incorporated this mission moment discussion because there were a variety of professionals in the room—program, development, and executive staff. Despite having had a variety of different consultants support the organization as they went through changes, this was the first time some of the front-line, direct service team had been invited to the table. What an eye-opening, powerful experience! I framed the discussion by asking participants to take a few minutes to think about why the mission of the organization was important to them personally. Then, they were given an opportunity to share with the group their personal connection to the work. By the time we were through, there were few dry eyes in the room.
Stories are powerful—they can be personal anecdotes or they can be nuggets of connection to programmatic success. By giving ALL team members the opportunity to share their personal connection to the work you do, you can develop better grant proposals and also foster a deeper understanding of how your fundraising goals align with programmatic objectives.

How will you learn from your colleagues to enhance your practice?

Keri McDonald is a Jane of All Trades when it comes to nonprofit and public sector organizations—she has served in a number of diverse roles from case worker, to communications manager, to grants manager, to board member. This broad experience and ability to see through the eyes of all constituents helped her to establish Keri McDonald Consulting, where she specializes in communications and grant writing.

GPC Competency 2: Organizational Development