There are many kinds of people who are good at fundraising. And this post is a caution for those who need to hear that it's not always the bubbly, talkative development director who lands the commitment. In fact, all too often we hear about the people who are great at talking to donors, but who miss the meaningful conversations (meaningful for the nonprofit, that is) and don't make the ask to close the gift. Or who don't do the requisite follow-up until it's too late and the fiscal year-end is upon the team and the donor is left wondering why what they wanted didn't matter until now.
There are really two points here that we want to unpack:
So, let's start with the first point. Of course, you can't have a good front-line fundraising person who's unwilling to be on the front lines. But if the individual is willing and has the ability to do what's required, then it really doesn't matter if they're more pensive than perky.
I know many a board member who has commented on the new development person, the extrovert, saying how great it is to have someone on the team who can talk to anyone. Indeed, that's wonderful! But the question management should be asking is how they are going to best support that person and how they are going to hold them accountable. What metrics are being used? How is progress from one donor to the next being evaluated over time? What strategies are in place and how do we agree to move on to the next prospect when our efforts somehow fail? (We'll touch on these topics in subsequent posts.)
The board loves fundraisers who are ebullient because unless the board is experienced in the field, it seems as though money will naturally come in the door through the work of an engaging personality. But those who diligently work the front lines know that an outgoing personality must be matched with an equal measure of action-taking in the nonprofit house. Records must be kept, follow-up must be done, and most importantly, meaningful conversations must be had.
Which brings us to the second point: while after a discovery meeting (when you finally are face-to-face with a prospective donor) there are encounters likely to help build trust in your relationship, the eye must be on the goal of aligning that person's passion with what your nonprofit is committed to achieving. Fundraisers of all kinds must be asking themselves: Have I learned enough to talk to the donor about exactly what it is that will fire up their desire to have an impact? Nothing less will get you a win, and we all know too well the donor prospects who have been strung along for months on end without anything other than a well-meaning fundraiser to connect them to the nonprofit's work. But if that fundraiser is one who doesn't know how to make the ask, or in basic language, put the relationship work they've been doing to the ultimate test, then the meaningfulness of all prior conversations comes into question.
This to say, if you're in the management seat where knowing what makes a good fundraiser matters, then we encourage you to look beyond energetic personalities and into the heart of the matter: do you have someone here who can help marry art and science, passion and meaningful engagement, for the cause you care most about? If so, then everyone wins. And in that light, it's a great bonus to have a capable extrovert on your team.