While watching the Sochi Olympics this month, I couldn’t help but notice the teams of people surrounding the top-performing athletes. Coaches shouted wildly in the start house at alpine skiing events. Trainers, choreographers and skate-guard holders flanked the figure skaters as they waited for their scores.
You, too, can leverage a support crew by teaming up with other departments. Here are 4 reasons why cozying up to your finance department will help you maximize fundraising results.
You Are Too Close to Ignore Each Other
Communication between development and finance is a necessity. AFP even sponsors a conference on this topic! Fundraising folks bring dollars into an organization; finance manages those funds once they have been received. Communication between these two functions – during the fundraising process and after a gift has been received – is critical to good organizational management and good stewardship of a donor’s gift. If you don’t already have strong lines of communication with your finance team, start building them now.
Tip: Schedule regular meetings with your finance team to update them on asks and proposals forthcoming or under consideration. Give them a chance to ask you questions, too.
They Are The Experts
Your finance friends know your organization’s financial model better than anyone. They know the big picture and they know the down-in-the-weeds details. As a fundraiser, you certainly don’t need an accounting degree, but learning what you can from your finance team about your organization’s major sources of income and expenses will benefit you and your work. Here’s a good article on the eight financial terms everyone should know.
Donors – especially foundations – ask financial questions. As you talk with donors and prospects, keep a list of their finance-related questions and share these questions with your finance team. Together, you can develop a standard list of talking points to address the most frequently asked questions. Creating these talking points collaboratively ensures that the financial picture you paint for donors is high-level, and accurate. If a donor wants more detail, your strong working relationship with finance makes it easy to hunt down additional info.
They Live and Breathe Budgets
Rather than trying to create program budgets yourself, here are 3 good reasons to ask finance for help:
- Their job is to track all organizational budgets, so they may already have one for your chosen program.
- If a program budget doesn’t yet exist, finance has all the necessary facts and figures to create an accurate budget. You’ll likely be more confident in sharing numbers generated by the finance team than by you personally.
- Finance can help you tailor a budget to best communicate with a specific donor. Maybe you want to show more vs. less salary expenses, or include a percentage of indirect costs. Finance folks can help with this type of customization.
They are Part of Your Stewardship Team
When I think about stewardship, I often think like a fundraiser – how can I best communicate with my donor? What opportunities can I offer them to stay engaged? Thankfully, your friends in finance are looking at a different slice of the stewardship pie—making sure your donor’s gift is spent in the way it was intended.
Tracking donations, especially the spending of restricted gifts, is not easy work. Mistakes made in this arena can result in loss of donor confidence, or – worst case scenario – having to return money to a donor.
Tip: In those regular meetings mentioned above, set up a process with your finance team for communicating the key details of new gifts when they arrive, and how to best monitor spending. Communication might include an email template for new gifts received and/or quarterly checks of all restricted gifts and corresponding expenses.
In what ways do you interact with your organization’s finance team? What new ideas will you try next?
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