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    By Peter Lannoo • March 29, 2021

    Why The Time Is Now To Invest In Your Development Team

    In what may be the most obvious statement of the year, circumstances have changed. From Zoom meetings to mask wearing, things certainly look different than they did before.

    When it comes to philanthropy, the ground of giving has fundamentally shifted. People are giving like never before. With stock prices high, donations top-of-mind, and increased use in technology expanding accessibility to distant stakeholders, this moment is waiting to be met. 

    Why The Time Is Now To Invest In Your Development Team

    The only question is how will we choose to meet it?

    Last week’s webinar through The Chronicle of Philanthropy highlighted the importance of investing in development staff and operations to help buck stagnancy and prepare for what we all assume to be an uncertain future. Sue Paresky, of Sue Paresky Consulting, and Susan Doliner, Vice President of Philanthropy at Maine Medical Center, offered valuable insights for organizations eager to advance their philanthropic efforts in the future. 

    Here were some of my key takeaways:

    Bet On Yourself and Your Team

    Investing in your team means having the confidence to bet on them to pull you forward. I use the word “bet” here consciously, because in every investment there is risk. Sue Paresky emphasized this uncertainty on the webinar, noting that there will be a chance of failure. But in the worst case, failure when betting on yourself is easier to stomach than failure via stagnancy.

    When an investment carries risk, it not only has to be backed up by confidence, but must be wrapped in a plan. Innovation for innovation’s sake is no better than stagnancy; an applied force without a direction is useless.

    Be Aware: There’s No Easy Way to the Top

    Susan and Sue provided some steps in the webinar to build plans. Susan, of Maine Medical Center, advises a “laser focus” to the top of the donor pyramid, because “that’s what drives the success of your organization.” However, she also added that getting donors to that altitude isn’t so straightforward any more, and the top of the pyramid isn’t always clear.

    The donor pipeline has ceased to be linear. Now, gifts are popping up all over the place. An integral part of any effective plan is to prioritize those gifts coming in and be able to steward them and demonstrate measurable impact to the donors (i.e. “tell me more about what my gift can do”).

    With stock prices high, donations top-of-mind, and increased use in technology expanding accessibility to distant stakeholders, this moment is waiting to be met. 

    The only question is how will we choose to meet it?

    Be Goal Oriented

    When you add a revenue goal to your plan, or more ideally, a range, as Sue advises, you can then ask yourself what investments you need to reach that goal. And remember: the goal is not to do cheap fundraising, because donors and stakeholders see through that immediately. The goal is best practice fundraising for maximum impact.

    Of course, this isn’t a shortcut to weasel around ROI calculations. Both qualitative and quantitative analyses are incredibly important. But by weighing the whole picture instead of just a balance sheet, you can determine which investments will truly enable your team and increase impact in the community.

    Budgets are razor-thin, and extra dollars won’t be found laying around, but people are giving now. The moment will be met by organizations willing to invest in their own future, who constantly ask themselves if they are doing the best work of their lives, and enable their teams to do more with less.

    Investing in your development team can take many forms. University of the Pacific identified Gravyty's AI-powered tools as a way to boost the productivity of its existing fundraising team without breaking the bank. According to Burnie Atterbury: "Investing in Gravyty is a lot less expensive than hiring new fundraisers. I am very comfortable with that decision."

    Read about Pacific's adoption of AI and how they are using Gravyty to definitely qualify and disqualify thousands of prospects in just a few weeks here.

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