“Who should we invite to our board fundraising training?” asks the curious client.
This is often followed by a string of specific questions: “What about the staff? How about our volunteers? The development committee? Should we invite potential board members we are recruiting? How about program staff?”
I have a very simple answer: “Yes.” If I’m feeling emphatic, I might add, “Yes, yes, yes, and yes.”
If you plan to review donor histories and make assignments, that workshop should be restricted to the people who will solicit these donors. But otherwise, the more people you invite, the better.
People Who Raise the Money Have the POWER
The first reason to train more people to raise money is obvious. The more people raising money, the more money you raise.
That alone is a great reason to train everyone. But it’s not the only reason.
The second reason is more nuanced and more political. It’s easier to create a democratically-run organization — where everyone has a say — if everyone helps to generate resources.
Before I started my consulting practice, I spent fifteen years as development staff in five different organizations. I learned that the people who successfully raised money had more influence over how it was spent.
When it was time to make decisions about allocating money, the people who generated it had more leverage. When they said things like, “I believe we can raise money for that project,” or “That program is going to be a tough sell with funders,” people listened to them. They spoke from experience, and experience matters.
I also noticed that some people – generally executive directors or specific board members – were very possessive about their relationships with key donor and funders. They offered a variety of reasons: “I know him best, she will only respond to me, we have a long-standing relationship, someone else might approach her inappropriately,” etc.
These same people, while complaining about board members who wouldn’t help with fundraising, would often downplay the need for training. They’d say, “We already know how to do that, so why invest the time/energy/money in training?”
In truth, these executive directors and trustees enjoyed the power that accompanies successful fundraising, and they didn’t want to share it. They feared that their influence would be diminished if other people started generating income.
Level the Playing Field: Train Everyone
Many organizations use words like justice, equity, democracy in their mission statements. But many fewer demonstrate those values by making sure that everyone has a hand in both raising money and figuring out how to spend it. These organizations don’t really practice what they preach, and power is distributed inequitably within and among the board and staff.
The most effective way to engage people in fundraising is to train them. Help them become more knowledgeable and comfortable, and watch what happens.
Fundraising training should be frequent, consistent, and intentional. It should include board, staff, volunteers, donors, and partners.
Engage everyone in fundraising, and over time you’ll see the power dynamics within your organization become more democratic.
For a simple, effective training plan for your organization take a look at this post!