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An Easy Way to Bridge the Gap Between Your Program and Development Team Silos


Have you noticed that your program and development teams are not always on the same page? Or does there seem to be much more opportunity for collaboration?

You are not alone!

Nonprofits are structured such that staff members work with two general and distinct groups of people: those receiving services and those funding the services (more on that here). This dynamic is VERY different than the for-profit sector, where there is usually only one audience – the same people who receive goods/services are the same people who actually pay for those goods/services.

This dynamic among nonprofits can easily create a gap between departments. Program staff may not understand what all is entailed in your fundraising strategy, and likewise your fundraisers may not have the boots-on-the-ground perspective of program staff.

Can you empathize with these real-life examples?

  • Volunteer/Donor receives multiple emails in one day from both program and development staff with different requests
  • Volunteer is never given opportunity to give (or the opposite) they’re asked to give but never appropriately thanked for the time they already give
  • Program and Development staff rarely collaborate on projects or have staff meetings together

If these situations hit more, perhaps your organization could benefit from one easy change:

Cross-departmental shadowing

Does your program team understand the idea of a donor-centric culture? They are likely trained in social services, not fundraising, so don’t expect them to understand best practices around donor stewardship, engagement, and retention. Invite them to participate with you in a free webinar. It will likely open their eyes to new ways of appreciating and stewarding the volunteers they work with on daily basis.

Likewise, expose your fundraising team to the real-life, daily challenges of your program participants and the staff that support them. Participate in a family visit/tutoring session/career workshop or whatever service you provide. This will also expand your understanding of their challenges, and you might stumble upon new fundraising opportunities that you can more empathetically share with funders.

What gaps do you experience between program and development departments? And what has worked for you to bridge that gap?

Share in the comments below!


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