Is Your Finance Department Ruining Your Fundraising?

Finance

I believe in equality and work hard to not consciously or subconsciously discriminate against anyone.

Except Finance Managers.

Yes this is a passively aggressive post about finance managers because one of them just told me they have my invoice right in front of them, but refuse to pay it because they have conjured up 30 day payment terms. (Is there any profession besides Finance Manager where you can say “Yes I have that in front of me but can’t do anything with it for 30 days because I myself have decided I only do things after 30 days”?). And yes the same person delayed my payment because their ‘policy’ is to disregard my account details on the invoice and insist that I read them out over the phone.

And yes, I feel I can rightly complain about them because some of my best friends are finance managers. And also…because I started my career in finance. (Did you know that?) I remember seeing Accounts Payable inventing all sorts of excuses to delay payments…asking creditors to resend their invoice because they didn’t seem to have it (while holding it in their hands).

So what’s this got to do with fundraising?

Well our donors and potential donors don’t distinguish between ‘you the Fundraiser’ and ‘Jeremy in Accounts’.

You are one organisation.

And the experience people have with your finance department has in impact on how they view you and how they respond to your fundraising.

I’m mindful of the live-call mystery shopping exercise I do at conferences…you might have seen it? We call a charity live on the phone and try to make a donation.

Unequivocally, the worst experiences are when you get through to the Finance Manager. They’re cold, they’re inconvenient and they suck all of the joy and love out of what should be a very special interaction for that donor.

And I remember the worst donation ‘Thank You’ letter I ever got was from a finance person who somehow bypassed the fundraising department. It said, “INVOICE – PAID”.

Why?

Because they’re inhuman.

No, that’s not fair.

It’s because they don’t get it. It’s because #DonorLove isn’t their priority. It’s because their focus is on cutting costs (because they know it’s easier to cut costs than to raise more). It’s because they’re under pressure in a capitalist system that’s been created for them. And because they’re inhuman.

It spills in to the decisions our organisation makes, because the finance person has power.

What day of the month do you allow your monthly donors to donate?

Well, this decision was made by Margaret in Accounts. When she set up your direct debit facility she picked the day of the month that was best for her. She worked around her schedule, her month-end, what suited her. And forevermore your donors are restricted and your income is negatively affected…because of Margaret.

Your donors and potential donors are interacting with your finance department. Your suppliers (and potential corporate partners) are chasing them for payment. Your fundraisers are phoning them and being told that they raised less than they did (they deduct the online platform fees!). Your donors are being told there are policies and the computer says no.

What can we do about it?

We can hope that Artificial Intelligence replaces finance people first.

We can work closely with them, we can get to know them and we can help them to understand that every interaction is a fundraising interaction.

Or we can just accept that I’m having a bitter rant and I’ll feel better tomorrow.

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