Your organization is planning a 30th anniversary gala, and hundreds of donors, board members, and honored guests will be invited to attend. It’s a flagship moment in your history, an incredible opportunity to highlight your mission, boost sponsorships, and engage new donors. The event is only three months away when your development director suddenly gives you a two-week notice.
Or worse still, your organization hasn’t had a development director for more than a year. The position has been allowed to remain vacant to “save” money. The strategy worked at first, but a year later, your budget is shrinking as grant deadlines are missed, annual appeals go out late or not at all, and donors are overlooked.
Whether you are a small, medium or even large non-profit, you most likely don’t have the staff resources to cover a key fundraising position effectively within your organization. A search for the right replacement will take many weeks or months, and if the position has been vacant for a while, understanding your needs and regaining your momentum is overwhelming.
A critical and often overlooked solution is the use of interim staffing to help bridge the gap and even broaden your base of support. Good interim staffers are seasoned, experienced fundraisers who not only jump right in to carry the day-to-day load, but add fresh, new ideas to the mix. They can direct all aspects of a coordinated fundraising program or help with specific needs such as implementing a marketing plan, writing grant proposals, or directing an important special event. With interim help, your organization can continue advancing its mission while having the time and freedom to carefully consider longer-term options: conducting a search, funding a new position, or restructuring the staff.
Fundraising is a year-round function, one that contributes directly to your organization’s ability to serve its clients. So while it might seem like a good idea to wait until you hire permanent staff or leave the position vacant, in many ways, you can’t afford to.
As moss+ross associates work in interim staffing assignments for clients across the Triangle, we add value to many areas, in addition to performing day-to-day duties. Here are a few:
Taking an objective look at operations. Because interim staffers have worked in a variety of settings, they are able to quickly pinpoint areas of opportunity for clients. In many organizations, the work load of the development team can be driven by grant submission and reporting deadlines, major event dates, and board meetings. All of these things are vital to the development effort, but should not overshadow the importance of creating an annual plan, which includes a timeline for each development function. Investing the time to put a “roadmap” together will help staff members plan their work and deal with unanticipated projects and requests. When a plan is developed, be sure not to overlook the database. Having a manual, which outlines data entry processes, will make a development team more accurate, and as a result they will be more effective.
Helping an organization explore new funding opportunities. Sometimes, helping an organization consider its assets from a different perspective can be a big help. Working with staff and board members to hone messaging and branding allows an organization to provide a clear, consistent message to current and potential donors, often presenting new funding opportunities. Treating all constituents as donors, even those not usually considered as having high development potential, may uncover special interests and result in increased and new giving. Interim staffers can help “cast the net” wide in an effort to uncover new potential donors, and can add new ideas to the plan because of their broad range of experience.
Drawing everyone at the organization into the development plan. Sometimes an interim staffer is afforded the opportunity as “the new person” to improve communication across departmental lines simply by starting conversations that begin with “how does that work?”, “did you know about…”, and “what could be better for you?” Many organizations discover that the development team can be a valued partner for other departments. It is wonderful to see the transformation in non-development team members when they realize how vital it is that they share openly about their mission-related work and interactions with volunteers, local businesses and other network contacts. The development team can equip colleagues with tools to make even more meaningful connections between potential donors and the organization’s work.
Keeping donors and stakeholders informed, especially in times of change. Donors care about who is directing the use of their gifts: One organization that was going through multiple staff transitions at once handled it beautifully by working with interim staff to take the following steps. Each team member pitched in to help fill internal gaps on the daily to-do list, and they also invested time in communication with supporters via email, letters and newsletters. They updated key stakeholders with letters that included not only the progress of the organization up to that point, but also the next steps that would be taken to re-stabilize operations. Board members also mobilized, some hosted events at their homes for lead and long-time donors to meet new staff and learn about upcoming projects. The cumulative worth of these actions led to renewal of lapsed memberships, additional gifts by lead donors and an increased trust in the organization’s ability to manage change without losing sight of the mission.