Bringing everyone together and creating a fundraising village will take work, but the increased funding, as well as the time and funds saved by more collaboration, will be worth the effort.

Recently I wrote about (text linked here) five crucial steps to breaking down silos and creating bridges for your colleagues to build a culture of philanthropy and embrace best practices in fundraising.

This is the next installment, where I delve into step four, involving non-development colleagues in fundraising. 

Below are the different areas your non-development colleagues (internal friends!) can join the fundraising process.

1. Defining and Building the Vision for Fundraising: 

When it comes to raising resources to help those we serve, it’s crucial to remember that everyone chose to work at this “village” to help others. It is critical that these colleagues who conduct the nonprofit’s good work be inspired to express this to potential donors among their contacts. The power of the story is pure gold to our donors and prospects; retelling the story internally will energize emotions and rally the team as well.

It is imperative to meet with staff regularly in groups both to remind them of our collective mission and to elicit their ideas for our organization’s long-term vision to change the world. During these meetings, we want everyone to dream big and brainstorm together. Such synergy should solicit ideas for the future impact our organization can have on the lives of others. After all, we are trying to bring positive change to people in our local communities and often the world.

2. Identifying Donors (alumni, members, volunteers, patients, etc.): 

During my tenure as Vice-Chancellor of Development at a major university, it was a priority to nurture a culture of philanthropy. We must positively remind our colleagues that philanthropy can not only sustain an organization, but propel it forward creating tremendous impact. It’s also critical to encourage everyone to be donor-focused and remind them where gifts originate.

Should we insist our non-development colleagues comb their contact files to help identify potential donors? Absolutely not!

Just as is true with board directors, providing individual contacts should be non-invasive and comfortable. People never want to feel like they are being put on the spot and treated like an ATM. When your colleagues believe that a personal contact may share their passion for the organization’s mission, this is an appropriate opportunity to proudly share your passion with them. Your colleagues should be strategic and mindful.

While interacting with contacts, they should be alert to the chance to elicit their interest in new opportunities for the nonprofit: “It would be wonderful if the kids had their own library.” Conducting such a screening process and providing this intelligence to the development team can be vital!

3. Building Donor Relationships: 

The late Al Jarreau sang, “We’re in this love together.” This snippet encapsulates the nature of involving your staff in the fundraising process. As noted previously, when an organization and its team accept, understand and embrace the important work conducted by the development department, donor involvement invariably increases. It may seem cliché, but a key principle that nonprofit organizations must continue to embody is that developing strong relationships is crucial to fundraising success. Your non-development colleagues can be instrumental in helping to build these relationships with donors they already know.

As the coaching process begins, it is essential to dispel the myths that fundraising requires begging and that fundraising requires mysterious work. Transparency, engaging your staff in honest dialogue, asking them questions and listening carefully, is essential. You are also sure to unearth some gold nuggets that can be utilized in donor communications.

While coaching the staff, affirm that you see how much they care about the nonprofit’s mission and how invested they are in helping others. Convey to them that many people want to help in some capacity and giving a gift is a special way for them to help…there is neuroscience behind giving! As an organization and staff, we are connecting people to our cause. These connections strengthen our organization’s ability to continue building while helping others.

To fully realize an integrated approach by involving your non-development colleagues in the fundraising process, I suggest mapping out an annual engagement chart. Point out the different touch points with the donor where staff can be included and help build these relationships. Your staff can participate by providing updates, attending events, getting involved in personal breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings, etc. The engagement chart helps make this process a reality.

4. Involvement in Solicitation: 

Development leaders often ponder the question of involving non-development staff in a “big ask.” My professional opinion is always a resounding YES! Although the non-development teammate does not need to be involved in the direct ask, they can be an integral part of the process. It is key that the development staff properly train non-development colleagues by educating, communicating, planning and motivating them to participate in this important process. Such preparation will clearly show during their donor interaction and make for a more comfortable and uplifting experience for both staffer and donor.

I advise scheduling “live role playing” workshops with non-development staff throughout the year. The exercises should be carefully scheduled with a cap of 10-12 people per event. Feedback on role playing is critical but can also be fun, and be sure to encourage nonprofit staff to continue rehearsing with other colleagues to stay fresh.

Involving non-development staff during the solicitation phase can garner outstanding results, and it will take planning. In the immortal words of Benjamin Franklin: By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

5. Serving as Stewardship Ambassadors:

One of the most rewarding experiences of fundraising is thanking donors. I’m sure your colleagues would appreciate the opportunity to take part, and I recommend involving them anywhere and everywhere it makes sense. Include your colleagues in your donor relations plan. Where do they best fit in and where will they be most effective in the art of stewardship.

Like Board Director involvement, not all staff are best suited to be front and center. Staff who struggle in face-to-face social situations can be employed to help with follow-up thank you notes, personal thank you calls, and donor progress updates. More extroverted and publicly comfortable staff can conduct tours and interact with donors at a more intimate level.

Bringing it all together:

It will take planning, coaching, listening, and understanding to bring your colleagues into the development process and build a culture of philanthropy. While it might sound like a lot of work, when a majority of people from an organization are involved in the fundraising process and strengthening donor relationships, something special starts to occur. Donors begin to feel like part of the organization’s team — part of the village. When they take ownership of the mission, they are inspired to invest!

These are just some of the methods in which your colleagues can engage donors, and I invite you to comment on other ideas and experiences that you feel would be effective.

It’s important for your colleagues to understand the art and science of donor engagement. Once they understand this, they are better prepared to start building stronger relationships with donors of your organization.

If you would like to learn more about engaging your staff in the fundraising process, please contact me at