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The Fundraising Dream Team in the UK

02/07/2010

In his latest blog, fundraising guru Ken Burnett has created his fundraising dream team for UK charities.  Whilst he has named a few of the great and good names we may already know, of most interest to me was the actually roles he describes which constitute a great team.

OK, so Ken admits his list is mostly from an agency perspective but that’s no bad thing as a) he is incredibly experienced in charity/agency relationships so knows what he is talking about, and b) many charities need to rely on third party help, like an agency, at some point.  His thoughts make sense and I know from my own experience that each of the roles he outlines is crucial as they provide the ideal balance between inspiration, planning and effective delivery.

However, it got me thinking more broadly than an agency/charity relationship.  I believe there are several key roles a charity team needs to fulfil to ensure its fundraising effectiveness; and they aren’t necessarily related to specific job titles.  What’s most important is to get the right mix of inspiration and strong delivery to ensure that your best ideas don’t get wasted by poor implementation and vice versa.  (It’s just as commonplace for weak strategy to be delivered brilliantly as it is for great strategy to never achieve the benefits it should – neither are desirable)

So here are my suggestions for a few extra roles to add to Ken’s fundraising dream team:

The Leader

Who owns the initiative?  This person is accountable for something more important than the campaign idea – the results the idea will generate.

A very experienced Sales Director once told me that nothing focuses the mind like having some skin in the game and fundraising campaigns are no different really.  Therefore the leader has a vested, personal interest in the success of the plan or activities.   I’m not talking about huge annual financial targets (as they can be too remote themselves) but SMART versions which genuinely focus the mind and efforts of the Leader on providing the rest of the team with what they need to do a great job.

The Champion

Politics exists in every organisation with more than one person in it!  But this doesn’t mean all discussions are pointless and that no decision is made unless by unwieldy committees.  Politics can simply mean the mechanics by which things get done in an organisation.  What relationships are important?  Whose help is needed to make the inspiration a reality?  Who has skills or influence that would be useful to getting the job done?

Every team should have a Champion to look after this aspect by representing the ideas, campaigns etc. to those other key people.  Their role is to persuade, answer questions and occasionally cajole when required; all in the name of progressing the initiative.  The more influential the Champion is, the more useful they will be.

The Evangelist

If the Champion is representing your ideas behind metaphorical closed doors, the Evangelist is doing exactly the opposite.  They are responsible for communicating the idea across internal teams, relevant external audiences, volunteers, suppliers, partners etc.  Basically everyone who needs to know about it, might have a useful opinion you could use and may have to support the implementation in some way.  A word of warning – this kind of evangelism should allow for two-way communication.  Feedback from the various audiences should be filtered back to the Leader and/or Ken’s Implementers.

The Analyst

I’ve included this role very specifically as someone who understands how to track and measure your activities and, most importantly, how to interpret the results into meaningful information on which to base future decisions.  Therefore not just a web or data geek, nor a finance specialist alone.  The Analyst needs to be able to do these things in the context of what you were trying to achieve in the first place (otherwise good, bad, right, wrong, are completely arbitrary).

They should also be involved in the fundraising campaign planning as early as possible in order to ensure they a) have the necessary contextual understanding to be of value and b) they can therefore recommend and plan all the best metrics to help you show how successful you were (or weren’t) and what stage of the activity.

The challenger

Perhaps not a full-time member of the team but necessary to avoid ‘group-think’.  For those of you under 30, this is a slightly dated but popular management concept which suggested that teams can basically get caught up in and enthused by an idea without really considering the outcomes sufficiently.  The challenger might be too negative to have at every meeting but they can be very useful to prevent the rest of us ‘jumping in with both feet’.  I think Leaders can fulfil at least some elements of this role as they should always think about the idea in the context of the desired end result and can often see potentially damaging facets that those closer to the idea can’t.

The silo-buster, or, the oil-on-your-cogs

Too much white noise and increased pressure on budgets mean that charity communications / campaigns have to be more efficient and more impactful than ever before.  This means working across teams to generate as much benefit as possible for the charity.  So why do many charity Communications and Fundraising teams still have separate agendas and consequently work independently?

This role is all about working across teams and getting the most benefit for the idea in question as well as for others.  They can help secure resources, support, senior buy-in etc. and are generally accountable for ensuring that the ‘whole’ idea is greater than the sum of its parts.

The audience representative

Not to be forgotten!  Who is representing the targeted audience in your bold plan?  The Challenger might come up with some relevant points regarding the appropriateness of what you are creating in respect of the audience’s wants and needs but it is often more pragmatic to have this role filled from the outset.

Their remit is to ensure that what is being discussed and planned is relevant and therefore linked to the objectives by default).  Often, we can generate ideas which seem fantastic to an internal perspective but simply don’t resonate with another audience (eg; the difference between MP’s expenses as viewed by MPs and by the voting public)

The independent view (perhaps linked to Ken’s close-to-heart consultant)

Lastly, this optional role can provide some clarity when the team has reached an impasse or when conflict is preventing progress.  They can be a third party from outside the charity or simply someone with relevant experience and no ‘agenda’.  Either way, it often helps to get a different view (on any aspect of the initiative) to ensure that the team doesn’t get stuck, unable to see the proverbial wood from the trees.

This is just a short list and I’m sure there are others.  I’m equally sure you will have different perspectives to mine so, please, what do you think?

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