Want to inspire your donors to generosity? Part 2 of 3

Part 2: Top secrets of $100 million organizations

In the last blog post, I introduced the top 3 generosity-inspiring secrets I’ve learned from organizations that have broken the $100 million revenue mark.

  • They hold a high view of fundraising.
  • They build integrated and collaborative management teams.
  • They place a high value on innovation.

In today’s post, I’ll explain more about what I mean by Secret #2.

GENEROSITY-INSPIRING SECRET #2: They build integrated and collaborative management teams.

 The $100 million organizations I’ve studied all have fully integrated key functions: program, marketing/communication/branding, fundraising and finance.

 Department leaders work well together as a highly effective cross-functional team. They succeed in tearing down the departmental silos that characterize so many struggling enterprises, whether for or not for profit.

I don’t just mean these core leaders collaborate half-heartedly for the sake of the overall mission. I mean they genuinely work toward understanding and mutual respect. Each discipline realizing that it is part of a team, understanding the world of their peers and seeing the value and contribution of each player. The CEO does not tolerate people who are not team players.

“Money-driving ministry” vs. the opposite is a false dichotomy.

At organizations that are stuck and not growing, I oftentimes find there’s almost a war going on between program staff and fundraising people. The program folks do not consult with the fundraising side when they develop a new program. So they don’t know whether it’s something they can even raise funds for. They live by the maxim, “We won’t let money drive ministry.”

I’ve seen program people cut or gut the very programs that are the financial lifeblood of the organization. These decisions are made with little or no thought to the potential impact on income. “Money-driving ministry” vs. the opposite is a false dichotomy.

This dysfunctional behavior can be partly overcome by embracing the principle that fundraising is actually ministry, too. (Secret #1, discussed in my last blog post.)

But true collaboration must go beyond mere acceptance. Your key leaders must truly appreciate the value each person brings.

That means fundraising people have to take part of the responsibility. They need to give the ministry programs team an opportunity to be heard. They can’t act like lone wolves, independent and going their own way.

It’s easy to find bad examples.

One organization I know very well had several strong, high-impact ministries that were very attractive to donors. One in particular was quite effective. It was beautifully aligned with the core mission of the organization, rallied volunteers to action and attracted millions of dollars in gifts over the years. Best of all, it truly transformed lives. I saw it firsthand.

The organization cut it.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why. Someone who had no relationship with their fundraising colleagues (or no interest in a relationship) decided unilaterally that the organization just wasn’t going to do that ministry anymore.

Millions of dollars have been lost. What’s sad is today, many years later, this organization is still stagnant. That lost income due to that one arbitrary decision would have made a huge difference in that organization’s bottom line and helped fund lots of other great work.

Collaboration Case Study #1: Seizing opportunity.

Oftentimes, this concept of organization-wide collaboration is embodied in one person. That was the case at World Vision back when I was vice president of marketing there in the 1980s and early 90s.

Long before I ever got there, the organization’s founder, Bob Pierce, was an advocate of both fundraising and ministry. He had a clear understanding of both, and set the tone for collaboration between these two vital disciplines.

The same was true of Stan Mooneyham, World Vision’ second president. He, too, had a knack for understanding not just humanitarian needs, but how to raise money to support them.

In 1978, when the exodus of Vietnamese Boat People was at its height. Mooneyham responded brilliantly. The organization sent a big ship to pick up as many of the Boat People as it could. In the end, of course, they were only able to rescue a small percentage of the hundreds of thousands who fled communism in Vietnam.

But through television specials, direct mail and other means, the organization raised millions of dollars. World Vision was not only able to help these desperate people, but also expand its humanitarian work in other regions, even as it connected with thousands of new donors.

World Vision’s leaders knew fundraising and ministry programs must intersect and work together. They realized that this high level of cooperation is integral to impact and effectiveness. And that’s very rare today. I see so many organizations where the senior people have no understanding of this key concept.

Collaboration Case Study #2: Together from the beginning.

A decade after the Boat People crisis, when I was vice president of marketing at World Vision, the organization was asked by the Russian government to come and talk about working in Russia. This was before the Soviet Union fell. World Vision instinctively realized that they needed to send representatives from both the programs area and fundraising.

Exploring the possibility of working in Russia would require people who understood both sides of the equation. Because collaboration and integration was so deeply rooted in World Vision’s DNA it never occurred to anyone to think: “Let’s just send our programs guy. He can decide if there’s an opportunity for us. And if there is, THEN we’ll bring the fundraising folks in to see if this is something we can raise money for.”

That’s how I found myself on a winter morning in Moscow in 1989 meeting up with our Eastern European field director, before taking a taxi to the Kremlin. We were in this together, and we were excited partners, even though we had never met before.

World Vision’s culture was built on the conviction that ministry programs and fundraising go hand in hand. That was drilled into the staff organization-wide: Fundraising and programs must be partners.

Stayed tuned: Secret #3 coming soon

Look for my next blog post on the next generosity-inspiring secret of $100 million organizations: They place a high value on innovation.