[Guest Post] 3 Tips to Create Sustainable Nonprofit Systems

I'm honored to introduce Tycely Williams. Tycely impresses me with her ability to create solutions for nonprofits that can be sustained even with small staffs. Here are some of her thoughts on helping let fundraising permeate all the areas of your nonprofit. She'll be expanding on these in her training for The Nonprofit Academy. Tycely is many things, including Regional Chief Development Officer for the American Red Cross. Her website is www.tycelywilliams.com and you can reach her on Twitter @Tycely.

3 Tips to Create Sustainable Nonprofit Systems

Tycely Williams on An Introduction to Creating Sustainable Systems for Your Nonprofit
by Tycely Williams, CFRE

Nancy loves her job.

Nancy works at a local animal shelter. Nancy ensures neglected animals receive proper care. She would do almost anything for those animals. While Nancy is among the 10% of Americans working within the nonprofit sector; she has never played an active role in raising resources for the shelter.

Nancy, like many nonprofit employees, didn’t get the memo. As a leader of a nonprofit organization, you must create sustainable systems for managing the organization and the expectations of employees. Your goal is to develop a system to measure and reward everyone for charitable fundraising. You cannot fuel your mission without revenue. You want every member of your team to actively engage in the execution of the resource development strategy. That’s right—every employee (even Nancy) is a charitable fundraiser.

Systems are the formal processes and procedures used to govern daily operations. Within any organization, a plethora of systems exist—yet, the performance measurement and reward system is arguably the most essential. You want to get an employee’s attention? Measure it. You want to motivate an employee? Institute rewards.

These three tips will help you reshape systems to yield deeper engagement and support of resource development. Regardless of the size of your budget or staff, you can lead organizational transformation with these easy to implement tips.

1. Deconstruct Departments

The Development Department cannot have walls.

According to Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising,

“Development experts have long cautioned that having a skilled development director is not enough. Beyond creating a development director position and hiring someone who is qualified for the job, organizations and their leaders need to build the capacity, the systems, and the culture to support fundraising success.”

It may seem easier said than done. But, start here: fundraising is more than solicitation. Your primary responsibility is to educate the entire team on what it means to raise revenue. Head back to the basics and the 7-step model. Team members can support fundraising by:

  • aiding with prospect identification,
  • prospect research,
  • strategy development,
  • cultivation,
  • solicitation,
  • negotiation and
  • stewardship.

Broadly share annual fundraising goals. During all-hands meetings spotlight fundraising—share the strategy and incorporate inspirational calls to action. Remember, staff members are current, past or prospective donors. Use these unique opportunities to create enthusiasm and excitement. Showcase the intended outcome—for example, an expanded wing to a school or the development of a new project. Carefully reference needs; this can inadvertently create a somber feeling. Report out on collective progress; use quantifiable metrics and identify tangible ways people can help close the gap.

2. Revise Responsibilities

Every employee within a nonprofit organization is a charitable fundraiser. Insert a sentence within every job description that underscores the expectation of supporting and advancing resource development. Next, evaluate individual performance and engagement in fundraising. That’s right! When yearly evaluations roll around everyone should be able to affirm how they participated in at least one of these areas prospect identification, prospect research, strategy development, cultivation, solicitation, negotiation and stewardship. Since people may not be involved in solicitation be sure to inform them and others how their efforts assisted in the fulfillment of a gift or the identification of another gain. As a leader you have the responsibility to educate and encourage people through this process—you can’t create the system without the support.

3. Rethink Recruitment

Be intentional when adding new members to the team. When you seek to fill any position explicitly state the organization is a charity. Ask prospective employees to share within a cover letter how their skills can help the charity raise necessary resources. During the interview process pose questions about the obtainment of financial and nonfinancial resources. Ask for tangible examples and concrete outcomes. Prior to extending the offer, explain the expectation. Everyone within your organization supports resource development—make sure the candidate is open to the exciting opportunity that awaits!

You can learn more at Tycely's webinar for The Nonprofit Academy. Get the details at: An Introduction to Creating Sustainable Systems for Your Nonprofit
About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to https://fundraisingcoach.com/21-ways/


  1. Thank you. My problem is I work for a homeless shelter for families. Whereas, homeless shelters for dogs and cats get funded because their clients are cute and cuddly--family homelessness is not. A lot has to do with how the media explains homelessness. How can I make a case that will generate funds for our programs?

    • Well, you can't change the media. But you can change the stories you tell.

      I highly recommend using a system like "The Rule of 3's" in the "articles" section on this site. Or asking donors questions like, "What attracted you to making a gift?" As you harvest those stories, you'll learn what's important to them. And those stories will be the ones to share since they've already worked in motivating donations.

What would you add?