We are now in the middle of year-end! Along with all the celebrations comes the most stressful time of year for marketing and fundraising staff. They are under pressure to meet their annual fundraising quotas, and they’ll react to this pressure by emphasizing what’s wrong with the system and minimizing how their behavior is (and has been) creating these issues. But the reality is this is the time of year they’ll most be needing your support. At the Human Stack, we want to give you 10 tips that will help you be a united front with fundraisers and ensure you’re leveraging your human stack and tech stack skills to best help your team out.
What fundraisers believe vs what they say
I have a story for you before we get into our 10 tips:
One time, I worked on a team with fundraisers and was the tech guy. They would say things like, "The CRM is complicated," "Our payments are failing," or "Our systems don't talk to each other." So I would say, "Yes, the payments are failing because you didn't include the code I showed you on the donation page." Or I'd tell them, "The CRM is easy; just look at this..." (and then I'd show them how it was simple and not complicated at all).
It turns out that telling people their experience was wrong made them mad at me. And they would then tell me I was wrong, so I patiently (aka condescendingly) told them I wasn't wrong, they weren't listening... and on it went.
Here's what helped me, and it may help you. Imagine an iceberg. What's above the waterline is what fundraisers say about technology, and below the waterline is what many fundraisers believe about technology (but aren't saying). And before we cast any judgment, replace the word TECH/CRM with something that you don't feel confident about.
What many fundraisers believe under the surface isn't about tech at all; it's about themselves. That they aren't good enough, can't ask for help, and will be rejected if people find out. And when we technologists understand that it becomes more natural to see that they aren't blaming the tech, they are often blaming themselves without knowing it.
Ok, so now that you've got that... let's check out ten ways to support your fundraisers during year-end!
5 Human Stack Actions to Help Your Fundraiser
- Empathize With Fundraising Staff
- Pack Extra Emotions for December
- Teach the office to use the word “unexpected” and avoid the words “wrong” and “fault”
- Remember they have a different experience of the tech
- This is not the time to push for them to “do it differently,” don’t teach
1. Empathize with Fundraising Staff
Fundraising and marketing staff have a hard job that gets 10x harder at year-end. They also have families they aren’t seeing, donors who need their time, leaders asking for forecasts, marketing assets that are hard to find in folders, etc…
Understanding that this is a hard time of year for them and that there might be some added stress in their lives is a great place to start. Coming from a place of empathy and thoughtfulness will help you communicate better, comprehend where they’re coming from, and improve relationships.
To further get in their heads, listen to a fundraising podcast or read a fundraising blog. Here is a great blog article from our friend Mallory Erickson: "Identify Your Limiting Beliefs And Understand Your Influence."
2. Pack Extra Emotions For December
Appreciation and empathy are renewable resources. Fundraisers will run out of both in December, so bring extra so you can help supplement with your own. That is to say, if fundraisers are snappy to you, don’t return the favor. Understand that they’re dealing with a difficult time period and that they aren’t at their best. Ensuring that you’re bringing your best and that you have extra patience for them is a great way to handle the added workplace stress.
This does not mean letting people roll over your boundaries but it does mean making space for their frustration and when cooler heads return reminding them that you're there to help not to take a swing at.
3. Teach the office to use the word “unexpected” and avoid the words “wrong” and “fault”
When the words “wrong” and “fault” start getting thrown around, emotions get heightened. Think of how you’d feel if your boss told you, “This report is wrong.” as opposed to how you’d feel if they told you, “This report is unexpected.”
The word unexpected allows for explanation and empathy and leaves room for further discussion or investigation to understand why something occurred. The word "wrong" tends to close the door on such discussions.
It’s helpful to adjust your own language, but everyone being on the same page is even better. Teaching people to switch their language before times get stressful is generally best practice.
4. Remember they have a different experience of the tech
For tech people, tech is the solution. For everyone else, tech is the problem.
When you, as a tech person, want to do something faster, you’d look at the technology. Fundraisers probably have no idea if something they need from tech is easy, hard, or even possible, so they might do something the hard way. Be patient and understanding with them. Combat their limiting beliefs by showing them that they aren't rejected for not knowing the CRM.
5. This is not the time to push for them to “do it differently,” don’t teach
I used to try to show people how much “easier” it would be to do things the way I knew they could be done. "Here's a key command for that!"
But I didn’t factor in change saturation and disruption; check out "User Expectations, Experience, And Emotions" to learn more. At this point in the year, they probably can’t handle any change unless it’s required. If it’s really easy, then do it for them. Make a list of things to change and teach next year, and hit it hard in mid-January once the stress has passed for your fundraising team.
5 Tech Stack Actions to Help Your Fundraiser
1. Back up the data weekly (And metadata, if possible)
Losing data at this time in the year would be a massive issue, so back up the more weekly, even if that’s more often than you usually would. Making backups is simple, recovering backups is hard, but recovering backups that weren't made is impossible. The last thing your team needs is for the donors records they’ve spent time reaching out to and making relationships with to disappear.
2. Create a way to complain make a request quickly
Make a deal with your fundraising team: if they collect data errors and user requests this year, you’ll help them fix them in the next year. Then make a google/asana/trello/monday form and put it on their desktop or in their browser bookmarks.
It should take less than 30 seconds from the page they’re on to submit a user request or mark a data error. Otherwise, it won’t happen. One way to do this is to add a bookmark to their browser; that way, it’s quickly accessible and they’ll only have to make one click to find it. Go over it with them in person if you can.
Remember, complaining is a sign of hope!
3. Create some space in your calendar to help them out
Set aside some time to create “office hours.” I’d suggest twice a week in December as things really heat up. Let them come to you with what they need, and listen to them with empathy and understanding.
Not everyone may have the time to stop by your office hours. Make sure you listen in meetings or your communication channels for what they are saying isn’t working well or what could be better. Talk with them and see if you can fix the problem for them.
4. Create a GRAVEYARD folder for all data imports
At year-end, you’ll start pushing and pulling data all over the place and it's easy to just ignore the output files from these imports.
To organize all of this, create a folder called your “Graveyard” folder. Put error logs, import successes, import failures, and backup files in your graveyard folder. In essence, put all your nonmaster files in the graveyard. You may not need them 6 months down the road, but tomorrow, it might be important to have that information easily accessible.
5. Create a Backoffice Wins report that highlights some of the best things from the week
It can be easy for it to feel like the world is falling apart for your fundraising team. They are stressed, and they have deadlines to meet. Bring some positivity into their lives with a weekly back office wins report. Highlight things that went well this week, and highlight things you (or other team members) are working on that will make their lives easier. Don’t spend too long on it (half the fundraising team won’t even look at it), but for those that will, it can be encouraging to see that at least some things are going well.
Budget for Digital Driver's Ed® in 2024
Our ten ways to support your fundraiser during year-end are building blocks and key elements you can learn in our nonprofit self-guided video course, where we help transform how you think about nonprofit technology and create a real impact for your team and organization. We teach you how to create healthy practices and behaviors to support your staff year-round, so year-end is a breeze. Budget our online course now so you can get started right away in 2024. Best of all, it costs less than a day of tech consulting!