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Fostering Allies in Donor Relations: 3 Reasons Why + 3 Ways to Get Started

We’ve all heard of the importance of building a professional network, and from gaining valuable career insights to learning the inside scoop on new positions, the individual benefits are worth the ROI. It’s one reason LinkedIn, the world’s largest online professional network, has experienced significant growth – it’s added an estimated 60 million users in the past year alone.

However, there’s another type of network that is equally as valuable not only to your ability to grow in your current role, but also – and vitally – to your team’s ability to achieve its goals. It’s a network of allies, and when it comes to getting the support you need to succeed, it can often make the difference between stagnation and progression.

What’s an Ally?

Allies are those in your organization who share common goals and values with your donor relations team (helpful hint: this could be anyone in your organization!) and, just like the individuals in your professional network, these allies are willing to lend their support, guidance, and expertise to advance ideas. They provide a unique perspective and often possess insights that can broaden your horizons. By forming alliances, your team will tap into a resource that helps navigate the complexities of the workplace more effectively and create a powerful means for promoting new initiatives and managing change.

The Benefits of Allyship

Cultivating allies in your organization is not just about forming friendships; it's a strategic approach to creating a supportive network that can amplify growth, bolster ideas, and foster a positive working environment for everyone involved. Allies may or may not be those you want to socialize with outside of work; notably, they are those who are equally committed to the cause of delivering the best experience to your donors and can assist in making it happen. Additionally, building your allied network helps:

  • Foster Diversity and Inclusion A robust network of allies spans across diverse backgrounds, experiences, and roles. Connecting with colleagues in different areas of your organization creates access to a variety of perspectives and ideas that can enrich your team’s work. Embracing this diversity of thought not only expands your knowledge but also contributes to a more inclusive workplace culture, AND often leads to creating a more welcoming, inclusive donor experience.

  • Navigate Organizational Challenges In any workplace, challenges are inevitable and, from leadership changes to budget reductions, these challenges can frustrate your team’s efforts to succeed. Allies offer valuable guidance and a fresh perspective when you encounter such obstacles. They might offer insights based on their own experiences or suggest creative ways forward you hadn't considered. This collaboration can transform challenges into unexpected opportunities for growth.

  • Pay it Forward By nature, allyship is a give-and-take dynamic. Once you've cultivated allies, be ready to offer support when needed – they, too, will encounter challenges and setbacks. Take time to understand the perspectives, experiences, and goals of potential allies and be willing to share expertise or feedback, and champion their initiatives. When you invest in others, you strengthen the bonds of trust and collaboration within your network, and that trust creates authentic connections that strengthen your team’s success.

Ready for Action?

If you’re ready to build, or expand, the tapestry of allies in your organization, here are three proven tactics to boost your efforts:

  • Be There Don’t assume allies will come to you. Be strategic in seeking opportunities to engage with colleagues across different departments or teams. Attend trainings, internal gatherings, or even external events where you can meet like-minded individuals. Offer to lend your energy and insight to support another team’s goals, whether it’s launching a big initiative, hiring a new teammate, or solving a difficult problem. And show genuine interest in their work and aspirations – remember, effective networking is a two-way street built on authentic connections.

  • Communicate – Effectively and Often Clear communication is the cornerstone of successful allyship. Regularly share updates about your team’s goals, projects, and challenges with your allies. This helps them understand how they can best engage and offer support. Likewise, be open to their feedback and advice. Constructive communication nurtures strong alliances, minimizes misunderstandings, and helps generate an effective outcome informed by multiple unique perspectives.

  • Keep It Going Cultivating allies is not a one-time effort; it's an ongoing process that requires time and thoughtfulness to sustain. Encourage everyone on the team to be part of the effort and nurture a culture of allyship across the organization by intentionally supporting these activities. Recognize and celebrate instances where allies have made a positive impact on projects, teamwork, and overall morale – sharing in success will deepen those authentic connections and inspire others to get involved next time.

One of our favorite ideas for nurturing and sustaining a network of allies is to create a donor relations roundtable at your organization. Whether large or small, it’s a forum for those engaging with donors to gather for updates, inspiration, and encouragement. While it’s imperative to connect with anyone involved with formal donor relations work at your organization, it should also be a welcoming place for anyone who is interested in being part of the community of practice – and an inclusive space for all to share ideas and celebrate achievements.

At the end of the day, everyone plays a role in ensuring donors are connected to the organization and understand the impact of their giving. By nurturing and leveraging allies across the organization, we not only create a more vibrant, collaborative work environment, but also a donor experience that is more authentically informed by the power and joy of that generosity.

Matthew S. Helmer is a DRG Consultant and Strategist and resident Unicorn. You’re invited to connect with him on LinkedIn; it could be the start of a beautiful allyship.


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