Personal Accountability and The Chart
You probably know a rock star fundraiser. In fact, you may be one! If so, I believe you share these four traits that are so essential in an outstanding fundraiser.
Today’s post is on the first trait, Personal Accountability, and my story of how one chart changed everything! Before I dive in, however, here are the four traits I’ll be writing about this month. Outstanding fundraisers…
- Seek personal accountability.
- Are pragmatic.
- Value and respect roles, stature and position.
- Exude optimism around the power of philanthropy.
If fundraising isn’t happening, you’ll often hear, “It’s the board” or “the boss” or “the organization” or “a lack of strategy.” But I have a different take based on many years of experience: Perhaps you need a reporting tool that provides accountability for definable goals set in collaboration with the board and executive team.
I’ll never forget sitting in front of my boss and beside the volunteer chair of finance at a non-profit where I worked years ago. After some small talk, the retired CFO turned to me. “Well, Phoenicia. How much money have we raised?”
I don’t recall my answer, but I do recall this: My answer wasn’t quantifiable nor was it in print. In a very calm and supportive voice, he took a piece of copy paper from the desk, slid it in front of us, and sketched a chart with four columns – Annual Goal, $ Raised YTD, $ Pledged YTD, and $ Raised Last YTD.
That day, I turned that sketch into an Excel spreadsheet, which became the chart that changed how our board viewed fundraising. Never again was I asked how much we had raised without knowing the answer.
That chart protected me, and later on, it protected our staff. It created moments of praise and celebration as well as serious conversations during challenging economic years.
I’ve carried that chart to every job. And, since launching Miracle Strategies, I’ve introduced it to several clients.
Interestingly, my chart hasn’t been embraced as readily or easily as I would have predicted. You see, in many organizations, accounting software is disconnected from donor data, and someone, usually an executive, is concerned the numbers won’t align.
This is a valid and real concern. No one wants the confusion and lack of trust created when numbers don’t’ sync. Here’s what I recommend and what I practiced in part:
- Work with your finance team before sharing information so your numbers are reconciled.
- Break out Verbal Pledges so they don’t show up as if they were confirmed.
- When possible, export data from accounting and into the donor database.
Over the years, development committees have amended the headings and added new columns. I’ve added rows to show dollars raised by strategy.
But never, not once, in almost two decades of fundraising, has a single board member or boss criticized this simple screenshot of personal accountability, which I’ve updated month after month in Excel, cut/pasted into Power Point, and emailed as a PDF to board members.
You see, fundraising is work, and it’s in our (fundraisers’, board members’, and executives’) best interest when the outcome of this work is not buried in a five-minute finance report or a QuickBooks document.
It’s only when efforts are personalized, accounted for, and quantified that they can be praised or changed.
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