Every nonprofit knows both the finance and fundraising departments are critical to its success. So why does it always seem that the two departments almost never get along? Communication and understanding – or lack thereof – is typically to blame.
The finance department needs a consistent monthly cash flow to ensure operations continue uninterrupted. The fundraising department is focused on annual fundraising goals and individual effort targets. This creates a lot of ups and downs throughout the year. Complicate things a bit more with pledged donations and the situation can get difficult fast.
Here’s how a conversation between the two departments might go…
Fundraising: You just don’t get it – this is how fundraising works. It’s your problem to figure out.
Finance: We need ‘X’ amount each month or your department budget gets cut. No excuses.
Fundraising: Not possible.
Finance: Just make it happen.
Fundraising: Hang on, let me go find my magic wand.
Realistically, are you actually having THIS conversation? No. But, the thoughts and feelings run true. So, how do you turn the relationship from a boxing match into a collaborative effort?
First, fundraising staff have to recognize the budget needs of the finance department are real. Fundraising realities won’t change – you will always have spikes in fundraising totals around major events and appeals, but communicating with the finance department can drastically improve how these totals are interpreted.
Start by developing a strategic fundraising calendar for the year. Look at your goals for each planned fundraising effort and map out when the income will come in throughout the year. After completing this work for each effort, look at your grand total and compare it with that of the annual cash flow needs of the nonprofit. Do they match? If they do, great! If not, look at how you might increase income.
After you have gotten the fundraising targets to meet the cash flow needs, sit down with your finance department. Go over the ups and downs throughout the year and explain the structure. Your finance department, with this advance knowledge, may be able to adjust fundraising income expectations and modify the budget accordingly.
Communication and strategy are key in creating a collaborative work environment. Work together and you may be surprised at where it can take you. Perhaps this time next year, your finance and fundraising departments may be planning a holiday party together instead of boxing it out up until the end of the year.