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Building a Successful Fundraising Team

Before you say “I need additional development staff”– take these key steps.

You will need to first make your case to your Executive Director/CEO for increasing your budget, your Board Development Committee – a key group of allies who work closely with your staff, and foundations who support nonprofit capacity building efforts.

First, explore and define your fundraising climate and its impact on your revenue. It is widely recognized that we are all experiencing degrees of a lingering pandemic and an uncertain economy. In addition, many of our board members, donors and program volunteers are coping with life-changing events from the past three years. Going forward, it will be important to acknowledge what different groups have been experiencing, know how they have responded and how they see themselves going forward.

For a clear picture, analyze each of your funding streams – government, foundations, corporations, individual donors and events – and present the impact each funding source has on your organization’s day to day operations, long term stability, and on the outcomes experienced by your constituents. Institutional funding and individual giving often support key differentials, such as childcare for program participants, outcomes data collection and analysis and staff growth.

Share recent renewal funding patterns by category and intel from key funders on their giving plans. For example, many foundations increased their annual spending during the pandemic, will this continue? What can be expected from government sources post the American Rescue Plan? Consider holding a focus group with your development committee on their giving patterns and their peer groups.

Pay close attention to the number of Baby Boomers among your individual donor base and their giving patterns. As the largest and longest living generation in history, Boomers are aging in place, want to be active and engaged in their community and have already started making legacy gifts to their favorite nonprofit organizations for general operating funds, capital funds, specific programs and staff positions. Engaging them now in conversations about your department’s role in ensuring your nonprofit’s stability could help establish a staff fund for this purpose.

Present where you anticipate shortfalls, where there is the greatest potential for growth, and the need for additional staff support. Define the expertise you are seeking and the added value this would bring to sustaining and increasing your organization’s revenue and impact.

Conclude with a succinct summary of what makes your organization essential to the lives of the individuals you serve, your community, city/state, your field.  Is your nonprofit the only or one of a few organizations with your service model or who is serving a high need group or community? Is your research capacity informing best practices? Support this with outcomes data and compelling storytelling.

What kind of candidate(s) are you seeking? How can you achieve productivity and increased yield? Ideal candidates will have:

  • A commitment to your cause, as well as an understanding and respect for the people and communities being served and the work being done.

  • Emotional intelligence, and the ability to work with others are essential for engaging and supporting your Board, other volunteers, staff, your constituents as spokespeople and team members, and community partners. Experience in and excitement for personally engaging individual donors and volunteers is a must.

  • A keen interest in your field who will be well-versed in a) the government’s role in funding and/or oversight of your nonprofit, and b) your field’s leaders in philanthropy and knowledge sharing on best practices and giving trends.

  • Communication skills: facility for sharing program information and issue/field research, writing and storytelling; communicating person to person, by phone and across social media. Technology skills for ensuring up-to-date donor records, timely acknowledgements and periodic review for special outreach, as well as devising website content and social media communications.  

Make a pitch for your department and your team – a purpose driven group that works with care, rigor and passion to advance your organization’s mission. Highlight recent successes and versatility – even if that’s meant ‘holding the line’ during the pandemic, their commitment to the future growth and vitality of your organization, and their dedication to advancing opportunity and equity for the people and communities you serve.


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