The Lion and the Three Bulls

Three bulls were grazing in a field one day being watched by a lion who, dribbling from his mouth, longed to devour them. However he was concerned that he was no match for the three. He began his campaign by spreading rumours and jealousy between the bulls that swiftly resulted in mistrust and unfriendliness. Eventually the bulls spread out across the field far away from each other at which point the lion fell upon them one by one killing them in turn. What is the moral of this? One moral could be that the quarrels of colleagues can be the opportunities of foes.

This got me to thinking about quarrels within fundraising teams that often lead to poor performance and missed income. Arguments can develop and cause jealousy within the team. An area that can be problematic is management not deciding clearly and fairly who gets the credit for income raised. Has this been thought through carefully – bearing in mind that a fundraising programme’s success, or failure, cannot fully be measured by calculating total revenue at a chosen point in time?

Fundraising is an ongoing endeavour. Income received may be the result of efforts of others in previous years and current work may not result in revenues until future years. Donations are often the culmination of the efforts of many people, perhaps including volunteers, over long periods of time.

A key to keeping the team happy is to ensure there is one financial target into which each member of the team contributes. Also to create a culture that recognises effort rather than just purely income. Providing reward without merit, often just purely considering income achievement, can cause all kinds of disagreements. Charities sometimes receive large unsolicited gifts such as legacies from benefactors previously unknown to the organisation. To include such windfall gifts in a calculation would provide an example of reward without merit.

There can be division between a trust fundraiser and a major gift fundraiser. Is the donation a trust or an individual? So what is the answer? The first point is to make sure that all are working towards the same income goal so no matter who solicits and receives the gift, all benefit and all are praised. This does not mean that individual fundraisers can’t have individual £ goals on a one-to-one basis with their manager as many do find this motivating. However perhaps these are not obviously shared with the wider team and can be different for each person. Also the manager can monitor effort. Donors can be fickle and change their minds, this should be taken into account and credence given to time and effort put in to building relationships even if income is yet to be realised.

How does this look in practice? Well, you can make sure that activity statistics are monitored as well as income. How many phone calls; how many visits; how many e-mails and so on. Give praise where it is due even before the donation has appeared.

If teams become divided then beware the lion – poor performance, high staff turnover, and even a drop in income. There is strength in numbers, teams should support each other but can easily break apart if they are pitched against each other. Income is a touchy subject in most non-profits and if teams fall apart it can be simply due to a lack of clarity and fairness regarding income raised.

What is your experience on this subject?

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.