Three Nonprofit Leaders Share the Benefits of Enlisting Outside Support for Development Assistance
By: Melissa Lagowski
Big Buzz Idea Group
For nonprofits with a small development department—or perhaps none at all—outsourcing is a valuable option. In our work at Big Buzz, we provide support with fundraising, events, communications, database management, marketing and more, offering a deeply impactful value to nonprofit organizations.
But you don’t have to take our word for it. This month, we talked to three client partners to hear (directly from them) about the value they saw in outsourcing development work. Here are the main benefits they experienced:
Allows Leaders to Focus on Strategic Work and Organizational Growth
So many nonprofit leaders are stretched thin with ever-increasing workloads. And across the board, we heard that outsourcing took development responsibilities off our clients’ plates. Grateful leadership and board members could trust that those tasks were taken care of so they could focus on strategic work and relationship building.
John Mayes, former CEO of Trilogy Behavioral Healthcare and former executive director of National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) Illinois, tapped into Big Buzz’s services to assist his teams with planning and executing events, including two of Trilogy’s annual galas and NAMI’s annual conference. “Once we decided who was going to do what, you didn’t have to think about their part anymore. [Big Buzz] would deliver the communications – they were ongoing – and as the half-time executive director (at NAMI Illinois), I didn’t have any staff to speak of, so it was really important to rely on Big Buzz,” he said. “I felt very comfortable with handing things off and not having to think about them anymore. In the communication, when you’re sitting around the table with the magical checklist, you knew they were going to take care of what they said they’d take care of.”
When legacy staff retired at Glenkirk, Big Buzz jumped in to help with the nonprofit’s database and administrative support. This freed up time for Greg Petersen, Glenkirk’s CEO at the time and current CEO at Keystone Alliance. “The other lead staff and I could still engage with donors and get our messages out, and [Big Buzz] took over all the admin back-and-forth so we didn’t have to worry about that.” Bringing Big Buzz on board allowed the organization to shift from a focus on how things had always been done to a more targeted marketing approach.
Taps Into a Wider Skillset and Deeper Expertise
Enlisting outside support gives organizations access to targeted experts in a specific field or area. When organizations don’t have staff members with the necessary expertise, outsourcing provides a way to immediately bring those skills on board. Rather than search for someone new, start from scratch or learn as they go, clients can quickly reach out to our team and feel confident in our expertise and experience.
When Big Buzz took over the database management for Glenkirk, the organization gained new perspectives, more efficient processes, and better outcomes. “The core value proposition for Big Buzz is that they can step in and provide a shared resource space within their four walls—work that I was historically allocating to a full-time staff person,” said Petersen. “By engaging with Big Buzz, we had better control over our data and a better understanding of donor patterns than we had previously.… Especially now in the COVID context, you need these experts and professionals to surround you.”
Extends Your Team
When organizations struggle with bandwidth, whether due to losing a staff member or having a special initiative come up, outsourcing gives them the flexibility to extend their team exactly when and where they need it.
When Mayes connected with Big Buzz to assist Trilogy and NAMI, he felt like he could treat our team like a part of those organizations. “All the things you’d expect a development professional to do within an organization with the resources—joining with Big Buzz was like bringing that component on board,” Mayes said. “It’s like hiring that resource to your organization. Everything from collecting and soliciting silent auction items to menus, they can do it all.” Dedicated, hands-on assistance is key at a time when organizations can’t find the right person, don’t have time to recruit and hire someone, or don’t need or can’t afford full-time help.
Petersen noted the value of Big Buzz’s consistent presence. Even when a long-term Glenkirk staff member transitioned, that consistency meant there wasn’t any discernible disruption to its donor base, which is important for keeping donors engaged year-over-year. “The amount of intelligence [Big Buzz] brings to the table from a marketing, PR, and execution perspective is vastly superior to what we do on the ongoing hiring ‘merry-go-round’ that happens especially in development… With Big Buzz, that relationship is there for the long-term and the competency and intelligence that is delivered through that channel is consistent,” he said.
In another instance, Youth and Family Counseling (YFC) wanted to produce a regular newsletter for stakeholders. “We don’t have the bandwidth to actually do the design and prepare it for print. We are a small shop… We’re thinly resourced,” said Mike Bates, Director of Advancement and Strategic Gift Initiatives at YFC. “It’s something we need to do, but we don’t have the bandwidth to handle it internally.” Calling on Big Buzz gives YFC the resources to execute this crucial part of their development outreach.
Produces Positive Results
Because the organizations leaned into outsourcing, Mayes said the Trilogy and NAMI events saw great success. Trilogy’s galas were attended by several hundred guests each year, and the NAMI conference was “very successful, one of the better ones the organization had had.”
YFC has also received positive anecdotal feedback from donors and stakeholders. “People will occasionally mention the newsletter—’oh, we got it and we liked the story’—whatever we’re featuring. We include a business-reply envelope though it’s not really a fundraising piece—we get a few contributions—but the purpose is to get us out in front of our stakeholders with a hard-copy newsletter three times a year,” Bates said. Outsourcing allows YFC to consistently communicate with stakeholders in a way that would be noticeably missed if the organization stopped producing and distributing the newsletter.
Ultimately, investing in outsourcing can reap positive results—quantifiable, anecdotal, or a bit of both. With outsourcing, nonprofits gain efficiencies in time and cost, allowing them to maximize these precious resources—and reinvest the savings—in the best, most impactful way.