The only boss that I have – “The DONOR”

July 30th, 2014

Is your boss not satisfied with our work? What do you expect then? A pink slip? – It makes sense and is perfectly logical!  After all, you are hired to meet the expectations of the organisation.  However, as a fundraising professional, I have realised that– at the end of the day, there is the only one boss – “The DONOR”!.

I recently participated in a week-long certificate course in fundraising and communications in New Delhi, India. I have always been keen on tapping funds from institutions, trusts, foundations and corporate houses. I was quite determined that my efforts/interactions/discussions during the training will mainly be in this line.

Donor representatives visiting a project in Bangladesh

Donor representatives visiting a project in Bangladesh

On the very first day, the resource person somehow tried to give us an impression – “fundraising is all about individuals”. I had a reservation, and I was rather convinced that funding has to do a lot more than an individual. As the days passed, we discussed differently on direct mails, cold calls, donor acquisition and retention, and so on.  At times, I felt that it was a complete waste of time; the whole discussion each day ended with a conclusion – “It is actually about an individual”.

During a practical session on telefacing, a pretty lady was on the phone talking to a stranger. She talked for about four minutes including her introduction, the cause for the call and the conclusion. I had an impression that the person on the other side gave her an appointment for the meeting. She put down the phone with a cheerful smile on her face. At the end, it is the impression you leave on a stranger. I thought about it over the night and was convinced that fundraising is not possible in isolation. First, it was a cold call that ended up with an appointment, which could turn into a request for a concept note and subsequently a full proposal. No matter how big or small the amount we are proposing, this is exactly the way it works. So, is it all about an individual?

I wrote a case for support, a capacity statement, appeals and many more. I featured Practical Action’s energy and DRR works, because then I could showcase my project to be the most urgent of all. The question was again, why the projects should be considered urgent to receive funding? I remember many projects I have been involved in which were not as urgent as the others, but they were funded. The answer is – the case I proposed was actually URGENT for somebody at the donor organisation. I again took my stand, it is not about “Somebody” who decides; It is about the whole organisation! But remember, evaluation committee in each donor organisation is comprised of a group of individuals. We need to win their heart, soul and mind! It is them who make decision on whether or not to support our project – be it a 2000 worth activity or a multi-million multifaceted project. So, am I convinced that it is all about an individual?  Somehow, yes!

Each evening, I analysed what I am doing, and what is my job. I assure quality of donor reports, communicate with them, accompany them to the project sites and make sure they are HAPPY! I swallow all the guidelines on donor call for proposals, and make sure that our proposals meet their needs and criteria. I follow my donors on Twitter, regularly check their sites and update myself on recent happenings. I greet them on their special days, I participate in events/functions mainly because I could talk to them. Every second, I am trying to be nice with them, become conscious on what I communicate, and gently/visibly/widely acknowledge them in every possible activity. What for? Because, I want them to be happy with my organisation and its works. And always, a donor is an individual – to impress whom, we put all our efforts. Having realised all these, what do you think? I strongly believe – “Fundraising is all about an individual”, and a donor in whatever form, ultimately is an individual!

I don’t want to get fired and become unwanted;  each moment I have this strong desire to please  my boss;  Yes, the only boss that I have – “The DONOR”!

4 responses to “The only boss that I have – “The DONOR””

  1. Arun Kumar Hial Says:

    Dear Samjhana,

    You have very well documented how you felt before and how you feel and understand now about fund raising giving a very nice comparative of before and after situation of your understanding and belief… After reading your blog, it leads me to think that actually it is not just fund raising which is all about individuals, but I think in all of the processes that we do in our projects or programs it is all about individuals, for fund raising it is individuals, for systems and processes it is again the individual who will ensure the systems and processes to work (depends on his/her capacity also), the changes or outcomes that we are striving is on the life and situation of people ( change in life of each individual contributes community level changes) and so on….

    I am in a process of thinking now, that, whatever we do is impacting individuals and therefore, can we perhaps say that ‘WE WORK FOR INDIVIDUALS’ or are we still WORKING FOR ORGANISATIONS??

    Thanks for your Blog..

    Best Regards,

    Arun Hial

  2. surendra Gautam Says:

    Very nice article Samjhana Ji!! Since long I used to think if relation with donor is individual or official, but after reading your e-mail I am now confirmed . Thank you for removing confusions.

  3. Liz Frost Says:

    Dear Samjhana

    Thank you for highlighting the challenges of fundraising from the donors that you and I work with, like Trusts, Foundations and companies, and the importance of recognising that they are made up of groups of individuals. As you suggest, their fundraising priorities may not always be exactly the same as ours, but we must focus on what our donors are passionate about and want to fund, while not losing sight of our objectives, if we are to achieve our ultimate goal of helping the poorest out of poverty. I understand completely when you refer to our donors as being your boss – maybe another way of also thinking about our relationships is as being ‘partnerships’?

  4. Ashwin Says:

    Sorry to say this, but the moment the donor is your boss, and not the poor people that your organisation is meant to serve and empower, is the moment that your organisation no longer deserves to exist.

    For too long donors assume they have the right to be in control.

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