The Ass and his Shadow

A man hired a donkey for a journey during the summer including the owner who followed behind to drive the donkey forward. After a while they stopped for a rest and the traveller wanted to lie down in the donkey’s shadow. They argued with the owner insisting that the traveller had hired the donkey only and not his shadow. They came to blows, with the traveller insisting that by hiring the donkey he had also hired his shadow. While they were busy arguing the donkey ran off.

In the story it is clear the guidelines were NOT set out beforehand.

Walk into any fundraising office and what do you see? Perfect harmony with the team demonstrating tip top performance – well hopefully. It seems to me that a subject that teams can come to blows over where guidelines aren’t set out is ‘who gets the credit for raising a particular sum of money’ and in the end no-one wins and the donor suffers and …………. could potentially run off.

Shared financial goals with no particular fundraiser gaining the credit can help this one and builds that sense of team towards a united goal. This keeps team members focused on their fundraising task of building relationships leading to an ‘ask’ instead of striving to impress others, in particular their manager by raising more than anyone else.

To run a harmonious team it is good practice to have a shared fundraising target with everyone contributing to that goal. There are other ways of assessing performance. The personal goals can include the number of phone calls made, emails and personal letters sent, asks made in the month; the assessment of performance is wider and more comprehensive than just focusing on the financial target.

This can make it harder for the manager to ascertain if one of the team members isn’t pulling their weight towards the financial target but assessing the effort put in can really help. At the end of the day the donor has the choice of whether they actually give the gift, we can’t hold the fundraiser responsible.

Most importantly the donor shouldn’t suffer because of team politics. They can easily pick up the vibes and may eventually run off. This also applies to chemistry, if a fundraising executive doesn’t have a ’connection’ with a donor they are talking to then they shouldn’t hesitate to pass them over to another team member or involve a senior manager to meet them or phone them as part of the relationship with the organisation.

Having a philosophy document outlining the values of the team and within that talking about how the team put the donor first citing specific examples of good practice, can help set the guidelines and encourage a harmonious team. This shouldn’t be a one-off document left on the data-drive but can be continually added to as more guidelines are highlighted. It is a work in progress.

Ruth is the principal and founder of Ascent Philanthropy, author of two books and passionate about helping non-profits with their major gift programmes by offering advice for introducing a new major gift programme or enhancing the productivity of the philanthropy team

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