Is Your Back Office Staff Supporting or Undercutting Major Gift Fundraising?

Is everybody on your staff supporting major gift fundraising?

Let me tell you a story: Back when I was a hard-working fundraiser, I had a dollar goal that was so big, it was scary.

business team formed of young businessmen and businesswomen standing over a white background with reflections

Like you probably have.

My job required me to be out of the office a lot.

I was out in front of people as much as possible – whether they were volunteers, donors and prospects.

That was the only way I could move high-dollar prospects forward so they would eventually make major gifts.

Spending time in the office at my desk almost felt wasted, because I wasn’t making “moves” with my prospects.

But the strangest thing would happen when I left the office for a visit with a major gift prospect.

The back office staffers would start muttering under their breath.

They would roll their eyes.

Snide comments from the fundraising back office staff.

This group of women who had desk jobs would grump and make snide comments to each other that I could hear.

Stuff in a certain tone of voice, like:

“Oh, yeah, right, what were YOU doing at lunch?


“That sure was a long visit you just had.”

Their attitude was: How dare this co-worker of theirs (ME) get away with spending so much time away from my desk?

Yuck.  How did it make me feel?

Offices with a team spirit raise LOTS more money!

Offices with a team spirit raise LOTS more money!

It was debilitating and demoralizing to the entire major gifts effort.

This sniping behind my back was nothing but COLD WATER on my motivation and my energy.

Fundraisers need support, not cuts and critiques from other women in the office. (and yes, it always came from women.)

Have you ever felt that not everyone in your office cares if you make your goal or not?

And YOU may not realize how this dark backwater of office crap is sucking you dry.

It’s hard enough to be an outside fundraiser, calling on people all the time.  Lots of people find it completely scary.

It takes lots of cheerful aggressiveness and motivation.

You need all the support you can get.

I realized this was a bigger issue in my next job in fundraising, when I found that the SAME THING was happening all over again.

That was when I realized that this phenomenon was in LOTS OF OFFICES.

It’s undermining fundraising efforts in many organizations.

These days, I am all over the country – and the world – presenting workshops and speeches about fundraising.

I’m starting to comment about this particular issue to my audiences.

Don't let this happen to you or your colleagues. Office politics can suck you dry!

Don’t let this happen to you or your colleagues. Office politics can suck you dry!

You know what happens? Half of the entire room of fundraisers will nod their heads and say YES, this is happening to me too.


This is more pervasive than we realize.

You don’t need to feel alone. Fundraising has got to be a team sport if you are going to be successful.

(That’s one of the reasons I write this blog – to support you and fundraisers just like you!)

How do you make it stop?

1. Go to your boss.

You can go to your boss and say “this has got to stop.”

But this strategy might backfire and you’ll have alienated your colleagues forever.

2. Educate your boss.

You can go to your boss and make sure he or she understands that if you are going to close major gifts, you need to be encouraged to get out of the office.

(Let’s hope your boss understands that it is your job to be out of the office.

If not, you DO have a serious problem!)

3. Build a team.

You can put on your “teambuilding” hat and try to pull people together cheerfully in your office.

Maybe stage some social time together.

4. Acknowledge your colleagues.

You can acknowledge the back office staff for their contributions to fundraising success.

Maybe stage a fun award ceremony and give funny awards to people for their contributions.

5. Share your activity goals.

In a staff meeting, you can tell everyone that your goal for the month is xx number of outside visits and you’d appreciate it if they would shoo you out of the office.

That way they understand that there’s a serious goal you have to meet.

6. Educate everyone.

You can help everyone in the office understand the various jobs of each person on the team, and how they do what they do.

You could ask them all what YOU could do to support them. (!)

BOTTOM LINE: Get everyone on staff supporting major gift fundraising.

This stuff is happening everywhere. How do YOU deal with it?

What’s YOUR experience?

How about leaving a comment and let’s get a discussion going: