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Finance And Fundraising Equals Water And Oil

By Andy Segedin - February 17, 2016

Nonprofit finance and fundraising teams might not only fail to know what the other is doing, the two might also be speaking different languages and have varying perceptions of their relationship.

More than half (56 percent) of surveyed fundraising professionals describe their relationship with coworkers in finance as somewhat or not at all collaborative, as compared to 45 percent of finance professionals who answered that way.

Differences might rear their head technologically, generationally and in communications, according to a survey conducted by Abila. The Austin, Texas-based software company surveyed more than 1,400 professionals representing both branches of organizations from Nov. 5 through Dec. 21 of last year.

Smaller organizations, those with less than $10 million in revenue, are more collaborative than organizations exceeding $10 million annually. Some 60 percent of finance staff and 49 percent of fundraising staff from small organizations described their work environment as very collaborative. Fewer than half (48 percent) of finance staff and 36 percent of fundraisers in larger organizations responded the same way.

Rich Dietz, director of fundraising strategy at Abila, said that further digging would be required to identify a cause. One possibility is that smaller organizations tend to share roles and collaborate more out of necessity. Larger nonprofits might have more departmental silos.

Millennials see the most room for improved collaboration. Some 51 percent of Millennial finance staffers as compared to 56 percent of Gen Xers and 60 percent of Baby Boomers responded that their work environment is very collaborative. Just 36 percent of Millennial fundraisers compared to 43 percent of Gen Xers and 57 percent of Baby Boomers felt the collaboration.

Turnover with the younger generation entering the workforce might be a cause. Dan Murphy, Abila’s MIP Fund Accounting product manager, also sees the possibility of relationships playing a factor, with older employees reaching across the hallway to their long-time colleagues to collaborate as opposed to their newer ones.

“It’s right brain vs. left brain. A lot of work has to be done to make sure that we are talking the same language,” Dietz said, who is encouraged that the groundwork of good collaboration is in place in organizations more so than he expected. A lack of collaboration and understanding of one another can lead to mixed messages in reporting from the two departments, Murphy added.

Joint goal setting and budget collaboration are two possible means of breaking down department silos. Dietz stressed the importance of basic, informal communication to get the ball rolling, perhaps even creating interdepartmental cheat sheets to help the two departments translate and understand one another. That the shift of Baby Boomers to Millennials in the workforce might make now an appropriate time to dive into such efforts, said Jenna Overbeck, public relations and social media specialist at Abila.

“We started a conversation about generational breakdown, that’s a great way to look at on-boarding,” Overbeck said. “Do you bring [Millennials] into the silo area that you already have or will they be the biggest advocates for collaboration?”

To view the report, visit


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