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Every Hero Needs Tactical Support

Every hero needs tactical support. Batman had Alfred, James Bond was geared up by Q, even Mission Impossible’s Ethan Hunt was supported by Benji and Luther. The simple truth is while the heroes on the frontline may receive the recognition, the heroic feats they achieve wouldn’t go off so smoothly without their tactical support gurus’ efforts behind the scenes. This is also true of the relationship between frontline fundraisers and their tactical support experts, prospect management.

Since beginning my career in the nonprofit sector, I have been on both ends of this spectrum, frontline fundraiser and a member of the prospect management team. What I have found to be the key ingredient to success, in both roles, is creating healthy relationships built on mutual respect. Frontline fundraisers need to know that they can rely on their assigned prospect management team member to understand how their goals fit within the larger organizational mission. They desire more than someone who removes and adds prospect to their list, they need a partner, a true tactical support guru who can help them through the sometimes-treacherous waters that we call fundraising.

On the other side of this equation, fundraisers who truly want to be successful in their role must be open to partnering with prospect management. I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t occasionally assigned to a fundraiser more akin to The Incredible Hulk than one of the more refined heroes of lore. These fundraisers are defensive, rush into donor interactions, and rarely have a relationship development plan for their prospects and donors. However, just like Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, with a little patience and empathy, we can tame the beast and help him or her develop into a force for fundraising good.

So, you may be wondering, “how exactly do you become a formidable tactical support guru”? It doesn’t require hours in the gym working on abs of steel, but it does require similar dedication. The main points to remember are:

1. Treat your fundraisers like they are your prospects, approach the relationship not as one employee supplying another employee with information, but instead create your own relationship development plan;

2. Stay professional but also take the time to learn what makes your fundraisers tick. Understanding someone is the first step toward a strong working relationship;

3. Remember that the frontline can be difficult and repeated rejections in a single day are not uncommon, especially when discovery work is being conducted. Congratulate your fundraisers’ victories and share in the responsibility for planning how to traverse obstacles;

4. Lastly, be open to constructive criticism. This is hard for many of us, but if your fundraiser has thoughts about how you can better support them, listen. Some of these critiques may be unwarranted, but you may also receive a gem of good advice that results in better outcomes.

About the author: Lauren Sylvester, MPA |

Lauren Sylvester is Principal Consultant of Sylver Solutions, a consulting company dedicated to helping nonprofits navigate prospect management, board management, and volunteer engagement. She is also a proud alumna and supporter of the University of Central Florida. Go Knights!

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