It can be tough working with a nonprofit team of volunteers, donors, and paid staff. Everyone has their own ideas, their own ways of working, and their own perception of what’s best for the organization. It’s a common challenge. It seems to pop up whenever three or more people get together to do something and it doesn’t matter whether you’re in government, industry, or a nonprofit.
Many past bosses have challenged me to “fix a broken team.” (Their phrase, not mine.) It’s as if all you need is a pot of glue or some duct tape! That’s no way to approach a human problem. There are lots of reasons people don’t work well together. Sometimes team members prefer working solo. Sometimes there are organizational issues discouraging collaboration. And sometimes people just don’t like each other.
Even if you’re not the executive director, there are some simple things you can do to help build a fundraising team.
Listen to everyone. And I do mean everyone. Even the squeaky wheels, even the people that make everyone else roll their eyes. You never know what you’ll learn.
Show respect to everyone. Assume everybody has something to offer. In my experience, they probably do. It just may not be what you expect.
Acknowledge when things don’t go right. If you don’t screw up, you won’t learn. Focus on what went wrong (the process) not who’s to blame (the person). Get to the root cause and address that.
Encourage creative complaining. If you’re already stuck, it’s too late to ask for ideas and input. I had one rule as a boss: no grumbling without suggesting a solution. Get your teammates’ input on problems you’re facing before they hit.
Keep your promises. The fastest way to build a fundraising team — or turn around a troubled one — is to build trust. And the easiest way to do that is to be true to your word. If you commit to something, do it. If you can’t meet a commitment, fess up and negotiate an alternative.
You’ll be setting a standard that other team members will most likely respect and emulate. And your leadership will appreciate the support.