QUICK SHOT: 5 Qualities of Effective Leadership in Fundraising

What does leading well mean to you?

Leader. It’s a word that you hear thrown around quite a bit. And if you’re like me, you might have been interpreting and using it all wrong. But my definition of a leader changed – as well as my view of myself as a leader – at a conference I attended four years ago. I was told that I and everyone is indeed a leader, no matter our job description.

Look up the word leader in the dictionary and, at first glance, it might not apply to you. You might not be leading a government or military group or conducting an orchestra, and I’m sure you’re not the lead horse in a team!

But dig a little and you’ll find this definition: the action of leading a group of people or an organization.

While you might not be leading an organization, I can say with confidence you are leading a group of people. Look carefully and you’ll see you’re a leader in a relationship… a family group… or even a neighborhood organization or church group. 

And you don’t have to have a set role to be a leader – by simply participating, your words and actions are influencing others. Pretty neat, huh?

So now that you know you are a leader – no matter whether your title starts with “Chief” or not – how can you more effectively lead your fundraising efforts?

  1. Lead boldly. What you do is incredible, so you need to position your organization as a leader in your community. Don’t be shy to speak up – both about your victories and your challenges. Be active and aware of all the things you are doing by regularly asking those in your organization to share stories. Then, boldly share your triumphs and trials across various media to give people an opportunity to engage with you – whether that’s through prayer, volunteering, giving money or just celebrating with you.

  2. Lead fearlessly. Don’t be afraid to ask for support. People want to give back to the causes they are passionate about and create a lasting impact. So don’t be shy about asking – remember that if you don’t ask, you are actually denying them the opportunity to get involved and feel good about themselves. They want need you to give them an invitation to give, so continue to ask fearlessly and let them respond as their heart leads.

  3. Lead lovingly. Amidst all the political and social turmoil we face, it’s more important than ever to lead with love. To show that love is what is making transformation possible – whether it’s the love of donors who so generously give of their money or time, the love of staff who dedicate their time to serving others, the love that people feel as they are supported and nurtured on their journey of healing or the love of our Heavenly Father who makes all things possible. Ensure all your communications lead first with love and a spirit of kindness.

    In the workplace, this kind of leadership can be exhibited by building a culture of recognition – something my BDI colleague Jane Henry shared about recently here.

  4. Lead abundantly. Now that you know we are all leaders, it’s important to empower others to be leaders as well. Position your donors as champions who are leading the fight to [insert your cause here] and making a difference. Talk about their status and how they are transforming the world, one heart at a time. Welcome them into the work you are doing with abandon and abundance so they can become ambassadors who love to share what your organization is doing.

  5. Lead creatively. One size simply doesn’t fit all, whether we’re talking about clothes or fundraising. You need a mix of communications styles to acquire new supporters, cultivate your existing donors, upgrade them to new giving levels, recognize their impact, etc. And just because a message worked today doesn’t mean it will perform again next week. It’s important to constantly be on the lookout for creative new ways to emphasize your message, and perform rigorous testing so you know what works and why.

Here at BDI, we are all about working with our client partners to help them become more effective leaders in fundraising, in their organizations and in their communities. For further reading on successful leadership, I’d recommend MT’s article on resilient leaders in turbulent times.

If there are any areas where we can come alongside you and help strengthen your legacy, simply reach out to us and we’d be glad to help!

And now, I leave you with these parting words by the great Dolly Parton:

“If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more,
do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.”

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  • Allison Myrick

    Allison Myrick, Associate Creative Director

    Allison Myrick has been writing for both nonprofit organizations and commercial clients for more than 20 years, though her heart is for nonprofits and partnering with them to help those in need. She has extensive experience crafting direct mail, email, websites, commercials and other integrated fundraising campaigns. Some past clients include: AARP Foundation, American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, AT&T, Citigroup, Humane Society International, Six Flags, Save the Children and U. S. Fund for UNICEF, as well as humane societies, rescue missions and food banks around the country.

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