Rewarding fundraisers who work on long-term growth

It's not easy, but there are ways of doing it, says Valerie Morton

Q: How should we reward fundraisers who focus on long-term sustainability and growth - supporter acquisition in particular?

A: Good question. The obvious answer is to use the appraisal system to set a range of objectives that include some financial goals, but also 'softer' ones relating to longer-term development and support of team or organisational objectives.

However, as anyone who has tried this will tell you, it is not that simple. Why? First, there is the unintentional consequence of poor performers using softer objectives to justify their work when they have missed financial targets. Second, the culture of many charities is weighted towards financial achievements, so it is easy for staff to feel you are paying lip service to other successes when actually all you care about is money in the bank. Finally, with the relatively high staff turnover in fundraising, some people find it difficult to be motivated by the 'bigger picture'.

The solution? I suggest you think long and hard about whether you have bought in to the concept of contributory objectives. If your staff are getting mixed messages, you can hardly blame them for feeling there is only one objective that matters.

If you really want to commit to non-financial objectives, work on ways to increase understanding of their importance among the trustees and senior management. Perhaps in the past your chair of trustees has congratulated your team when a mailing has beaten its target, but have they written a congratulatory letter when attrition has improved by a single percentage point?

Last but not least, don't give people an excuse to write manuals, tidy their desks or spend all their time 'networking' with clients and suppliers and 'developing relationships' with colleagues. These are all sound activities, but it is vital that supporting objectives are as concrete as financial ones. Include key deliverables, such as the number of face-to-face meetings held with new companies or the increase in donors in a specific database segment.

To round it all off, I have always found a 'star of the month' scheme can be a great way of highlighting the less obvious successes.

- Valerie Morton is a trainer, fundraiser and consultant. Send your questions to

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