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Allison Gauss
development team

4 Simple Ways to Support Your Development Team

Development affects every department at your organization, from programs to donor relations to events. What’s more, everyone at your nonprofit can do something to help the development team achieve their goals and fund your work.

Here are four ways social impact professionals can support their development departments and set up their organization for financial sustainability.

1. Always Connect Donations and Impact

Development professionals know that donors want to see the connection between their gifts and the real-world impact of your programs. This is why your appeals and thank you messages should reference the campaign and ultimate destination of their dollars. But the importance of donors can be incorporated in other communications as well.

If you work in marketing or communications, use the second person (you, your, etc.) to affirm the power of donors in content like your newsletter and impact updates. This language shows the donor that they are a directly tied to your work on the ground. Talking exclusively about your work in relation to your staff can make supporters feel separated from your mission. If you say “we,” make sure it’s clear that supporters are included.

When sharing exciting news or breakthroughs in your mission, always link this milestone to the donors who made the work possible.

2. Share Awesome Stories

Impact stories are one of development’s most powerful tools. A survey by Software Advice shows that donors want to see these stories after their gift, and providing evidence in appeals also shows your organization is experienced and reliable.

In fact, individual stories are often more effective than high level statistics. Hearing that you vaccinated 10,000 impoverished children is impressive, but your supporters will be more moved and more likely to remember your work if you tell them the story of how one little girl’s life was changed.

The problem is that development teams aren’t usually working face to face with the people affected by your cause. They probably have access to important impact metrics, but they need the heart-warming stories that other staff see firsthand.

So if you find yourself sharing a great story with coworkers, friends, or family, make sure to tell your development staff too. To hold yourself accountable, you can set aside a few minutes at the end of every week to email the development team with the best story you witnessed or heard about pertaining to your organization.

3. Network and Refer Potential Supporters

More than ever before, social impact organizations are tapping into the social networks available to them. Whether it’s finding sponsors through board members’ business contacts or reaching new audiences with peer-to-peer fundraising, making new connections is central to development work.

The rest of your nonprofit staff can help identify and refer new partners and donors. You can even use this as a strategy to relieve some of the pressure in networking situations. Instead of worrying about whether someone likes you, think of yourself as a scout for the development department, keeping an eye out for prospects.

If someone expresses interest in your work, make sure you exchange business cards and follow up. You can easily introduce a potential sponsor to your development team with a quick email the next day.

Dear Dan,
It was great to meet you last night at the Nonprofit Professionals City Happy Hour. I wanted to put you in touch with Maria Smith, our development director. She manages the sponsorship opportunities we talked about.
Hoping to see you again soon!
Sincerely,
Marcus Wiltern

4. Lend Your Voice to Say “Thank You”

Other than impact stories, what donors really want is a sincere, personalized thank you. Unfortunately, this kind of message is time-consuming and many social impact organizations aren’t able to send a handwritten note or make a phone call to every single donor.

But that doesn’t mean you should give up on the personal touch altogether. Committing to calling or writing to just one donor a day (or even one a week) means that many more supporters get the personal attention and gratitude that can make someone a lifelong advocate. If everyone at your organization helps out, the burden to steward and delight donors will be much more manageable for your development team.

Development professionals have important skills that allow them to fund your mission, but anyone at a nonprofit can do something to help. By clarifying the connection between donations and impact and passing on compelling stories, you help your development team show supporters that their gifts matter. Simply referring a contact or making an introduction can set the stage for a new donation or partnership. Finally, spend just a few minutes thanking a donor, and you can strengthen a bond that can result in lifelong support. Whatever your role, you can make a difference for your development team and their work.

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