Team Building and Fundraising

Fundraising is all about teamwork!Teamwork is essential to fundraising. You can raise more as a member of a team than you can as an individual. With a team you have backup, support, increased connections and more people working toward a common goal. Some team members assist with marketing and communications, others invite businesses to sponsor your special event, and still others will craft your year-end appeal. The grant writer is busy writing, and learning who-knows-who on a grant selection committee in order to coordinate pre-decision conversations. Campaign co-chairs are mixing and mingling about town, advancing the “buzz” and encouraging the who’s-who to get involved and give. Everyone is sharing contact information and updates with your data management person. All gifts and pledges are recorded and donors promptly thanked.

Good will fills your team meetings….Or does it?

Why do some groups just click, while others are overcome by challenges?  To find out we talked with Dr. Lewis Rambo an internationally recognized leader and teacher in organizational development, team building, and executive coaching.

Saad & Shaw: What makes a successful team?

Dr. Rambo: I’d rather comment on what makes an effective team rather than a successful team.  Too often we think of team success simply in terms of winning and losing … as in sports.  An effective team is a group of talented, motivated people who are energetically and harmoniously focused, like a laser beam, on achieving mutually shared goals or objectives.

Saad & Shaw: What should people be aware of when working in a team?

Rambo: A team is not just a group of people working on something.  To be a truly effective team member you need to:

  • Know what is to be accomplished by the team.  All team members should have a clear understanding of the team’s goals and of what the organization expects of their team.
  • Help determine how the goal should be accomplished.  Input from everyone on the team is needed at this stage.  Your contribution and opinions are very important to the team’s final product.
  • Share mutual respect for your team members.   You have to be willing to trust the skill and expertise of other team members and to become interdependent, perhaps, giving up some of your independence.
  • Share in group decision-making.  Being a team member is a serious responsibility. Some people like to sit on the sidelines and remain silent, so they can say, if things fail, “I told you so!”  Good team members do not do that.  They are committed at the outset… and willing to expose their thoughts and feelings, for all to view.  It takes real courage to be a fully involved, collaborative, team player.
  • Share the glory with others.  You can’t claim credit for all the ideas that actually work, and then distance yourself from the team’s failures.  Being an effective team player takes effort. Most importantly it yields results!

Saad & Shaw: What about team accountability and the role of a team leader?

Dr. Rambo: Good questions! The team leader has to take full responsibility for guiding and motivating a group of people who probably have very different styles, patterns of behavior, ideas, abilities and, attitudes. Every team leader will face unique challenges, problems, and opportunities. While no perfect formula for effective leadership exists, most successful teams have leaders who:

  1. Communicate Clearly. Clear communication is the cornerstone of good teamwork:
  • Organize before you communicate.  If you are instructing a team member, run through the steps in your mind before you speak.
  • Monitor your tone.  A leader must often give corrective feedback. When speaking to a team member, be aware of the impact your words can have. Although you may feel you are simply pointing out the need for correcting a mistake, you may be crushing morale and encouraging resentment.  Suggestion:  Plan out exactly what you want to say.  Offhand comments can be easily misunderstood. Before giving a team member any negative feedback, ask yourself: “How would I feel if someone said that to me?”
  • Send clear messages.  Don’t let distracting behavior or body language dilute or confuse your message, especially important when listening to team members.  If you are reading a document, looking around the room, or fiddling with a pen when others are talking, they will know you are not paying attention.

2.    Establish and Enforce Standards

  • Communicate standards and expectations so they are concrete and measurable.  Objectives and goals should not be fuzzy or unclear.
  • Create a scoreboard.  Let team members know how they are measuring up against expectations goals and/or targets. Post team achievements and successes where everyone can see.

3.    Help Them See The Big Picture

  • Communicate the vision, mission and objectives to team members regularly.  Teams sometimes get so focused on day-to-day activities they forget the bigger picture.  It is the leader’s responsibility to help members remember their work is directly tied to the organization’s mission. 
  • Show the team its contribution.  For example: circulate reports showing funds raised to date, number of solicitations, number of new donors and other data.

4.    Develop Your Team Members. Your team members have their own hopes, ideas, and ambitions.  Try to connect their aspirations to the team’s goals and build powerful alliances. Help team members find mentors.  Have new members “buddy up” with established members until they learn the ropes.  Having a fellow team member who “really understands what is going on” as an advisor can be a powerful tool in a new member’s development and participation.

As the team’s leader, be accountable yourself: set an example, and work hard to communicate with your team members. That’s how  you will begin to master the art of team leadership.

Learn more about Dr. Rambo at

© Mel and Pearl Shaw 2010


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