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NEWS > Charity Sector News > Smashing the Silos – A Playbook for Fundraising Leaders

Smashing the Silos – A Playbook for Fundraising Leaders

Breaking down silos in charities: Unifying teams for impactful collaboration and shared purpose in fundraising efforts

While large corporate organisations are often divided with different departments delivering different functions and goals, silos and silo mentality are never helpful.  In charities, big and small, alignment, collaboration and a single-minded focus on vision and purpose across teams is paramount. There should not be divisions, factions or sides.  Everyone needs to feel they are equal and critical parts of the organisation. 

Fundraising needs to work together with front line services to share stories to fuel their fundraising efforts. Services, advocacy, and other parts of the organisation need fundraising to fund their work and help beneficiaries.

Yet in so many charities, Fundraising Teams are isolated and siloed from all other functions. 

This can manifest in several ways, with the fundraising team often an afterthought when it comes to communicating or informing them of key stats and stories, they often don’t sit at all the right decision-making tables, and there isn’t sufficient value afforded to their time, and finite resources. 

Anyone who has worked in a fundraising department will have felt the impact of this. If it isn’t services or operations – it falls to the fundraising team.

  • A caller has a palate of 10,000 1994 schoolbooks to donate – I’ll just put you through to the fundraising department.
  • A company has 2000 staff next Wednesday for 2 hours and they want to ‘help’, but it must be team building and they don’t have time for training or paperwork – I’ll just put you through to the fundraising department.
  • A football club wants to ask every attendee at Saturday’s match to bring clothes donations – I’ll just put you through to the fundraising department.

None of these examples generate the revenue needed to further the organisation’s mission, yet in many cases these scenarios are considered the fundraising teams responsibility!

Silos tend to develop over time and become embedded in an organisation’s culture. Resentment building up between departments, inequity in how staff feel they are treated, respected and informed, factions between leaders who are vying for the CEO and board recognition for their individual goals can all contribute to an increasing sense of bubbles or tribes within a charity or organisation.

The outcome is that the organisation’s goals get lost among department goals and organic growth stifles or stops entirely.

So how can fundraising leaders build their team’s brand internally to break down the silo’s and promote collaboration to focus on the bigger organisational goals. Mantra has developed a simple Silo Smashing Playbook to help leaders, their teams, and organisations to thrive.

1.      Connection is king

An important way to break down silos involves creating stronger connections with different parts of the organisation by encouraging sharing. Town Halls or team meetings play their part but there isn’t always the agenda space to spend time cultivating relationships. As a Fundraising Leader, you might consider hosting an organisation-wide quarterly Purpose Breakfast. As well as breaking bread together, you could ask departments in attendance to bring a few stories from their work. This not only gets teams sharing their own experiences, but it creates a culture of storytelling across the charity.  You can also buddy up with another team or service, and invite them to one of your team meetings, and invite yourself to theirs.

2.     Speed Networking

They say it takes one to know one. Just like the rest of the organisation will have an opinion about what the fundraising team do, your team might also have a limited view of other departments functions. A fun way to tackle this is to run a Speed Networking activity with other departments. Each team has just 3 minutes to talk about their function, what they do, what they love and some of the challenges they face in their role. Mutual understanding is a great way to break down silo’s and put teams in each other’s shoes. This activity could be amplified through a ‘job swap’ initiative where every team gets to spend a half a day located within another team so they can get a real sense of the team’s function and day-to-day.

3.     Celebrate the wins

As fundraising leaders, we are good at acknowledging our team’s work. To bring the rest of the organisation closer to the fundraising function, you might arrange special get togethers to celebrate the success of different campaigns, events, donations or partnerships. It is likely there have been other people outside of your team involved, whether that was finance helping pull figures, IT solving data issues or services sharing a beneficiary story. At your “Win event” acknowledge these individuals, their efforts, what has been achieved and what this means to the overall goals of the organisation. 

4.     Shared language

Connecting the organisation around a central shared purpose, and common language can go a long way towards breaking down differences.  They say men are from Mars, and women from Venus, but it can often also feel like fundraisers are speaking a different language to their other peers and counterparts.  It is important to immerse in the cause or issue appropriate language quickly as a fundraiser, to understand the intricacies of why a service organisation prefers not to refer to something in a particular way, or prefers person first language (e.g. Autistic person over person with Autism in the neurodiversity space, or person experiencing homelessness over homeless person in the homelessness space).  Finding commonality, protecting and upholding the right type of language from early into an organisation can really help to forge allies internally and across the organisation.  Where a fundraiser gets this wrong, it can take a long time to build back up trust.

5.     Build your team’s brand

To move beyond the image that fundraising is all about shaking buckets, it is important to build your teams brand internally. The Fundraising Director might consider a monthly or quarterly staff circular incorporating upcoming plans, recent success and a feature on fundraising principles or articles of interest. This serves as a great platform to share information while also educating the broader team on the complexities and nuances of fundraising. Promote the contribution of your funding to key services or programmes in the organisation. Often people in the organisation do not know how much the organisation depends on fundraising, unrestricted funding or how you enable innovation across the charity.  This could include postering in services where email communications are not frequently used, or coffee meetings with service leaders to listen to their challenges, and to inform your future communications.

6.    Learn Together

When engaging in training courses, combine members from different teams in individual training sessions. This increases the amount that cross-functional team members interact with one another, building collaboration between the groups. Encouraging collaborative training sessions is more productive when the training involves interaction. While digital training is increasingly common, to break down silo’s encourage physical interactions as a means of getting different teams from across the organisation working together. As well as ticking the learning box, teams get to know their colleagues on a personal level, which promotes productivity and cooperation.  It can also be really beneficial to train and develop a panel of people from services or advocacy on donor-friendly language, talks and media opportunities.  Giving people from across the organisation the opportunity to speak to donors, upskill and improve their profile in the organisation can also help.

7.     Engage the organisation leadership in adopting a culture that embraces fundraising and drives equity. 

Organisational leaders should lead by example.  This means all executive members getting involved in fundraising initiatives in an appropriate way to them. This could include thank you calls, joining donor evenings, speaking at donor events, reaching out to their networks for fundraising support, introducing partners and potential corporate supporters, or championing fundraising internally to their teams. Additionally, the executive and board members should embrace equity, with fundraising leaders all recognised as playing a vital role in the organisation on a par with any other manager and leader across the organisation.  Too often, fundraising team members are appointed as a function of operations, or finance, not giving enough airing or seniority with the board, and this sends the wrong signals to the teams or individuals operating in this vital function.

8.    Use collaboration tools

We have all experienced death by inbox – the painful exercise of being copied on hundreds of irrelevant emails. Collaboration software tools such as Microsoft Teams and Slack are cost effective ways to increase the lines of communication across an organisation. By communicating on a more consistent basis, different parts of the organisation provide one another with solutions for issues or challenges, they can share files, or they can simply to have some fun. Here are a few channel ideas to get you started:

  • Meet the team channel – with fundraising team retention as an issue high on most organisation’s agenda’s, a comms channel that helps the organisation, board and front line staff to know whose who and put a face to a name can really help
  • Help Needed channel – a channel for all teams to ask for help with a particular issue or challenge
  • Fun fundraising facts – an update space on innovative fundraising wins from across yours and other organisations to inspire your colleagues

Collaborative software doesn't change the culture surrounding silos in an organisation but provides tools employees can use for practically communicating with one another in ways they couldn't before.

These Playbook ideas are only the tip of the iceberg but having a few different strategies in motion will increase the agility of the organisation, allow for more unified cross-functional teams, remove barriers and create a shared intention among team members to achieve the organisation’s goals.

The more open the organisation, the greater the potential for information sharing and building trust between departments.

In a nutshell, this new way of thinking will lead to a new way of working while simultaneously smashing those silo’s, to a pulp.

If you are a for-purpose organisation wanting to develop your strategy, culture or leadership, find out more at or drop us a line on 

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