Breaking Down Silos for Better Collaboration


How do fundraising and finance work together at your organization?

Is your process streamlined and efficient? Can you collaborate easily? Or are your teams trapped in silos, working independently of each other, each with your own information?

If your development and finance teams are spending a ton of time going back and forth trying to reconcile numbers and figure out what exactly is going on, you’re certainly not alone. Many finance and fundraising departments have difficulty collaborating and are often operating in complete silos.

The financial and fundraising departments of your nonprofit have a lot in common. They both play roles in the financial health of your organization, and are concerned with strong revenue and reaching financial goals. But too often, their differences keep them from pursuing those goals together. Without shared information and an understanding of the functions of each team, silos persist.

When fundraising and finance operate in isolation, it’s hard for an organization to reach its full potential. But when they collaborate effectively – the entire organization benefits.

“It’s only through proper stewardship that an organization can truly deliver on its mission,” says Germeen Guillaume, of Visionary Accounting Group.

Why Do Silos Happen?

So how do these silos happen in the first place? There are several factors that can contribute to silos, including:

  • Having different goals
    The teams may have very different approaches to budgeting and goal-setting.
  • Using different terminology
    It’s easy to get your wires crossed if you don’t have a shared vocabulary, with agreed-upon definitions.
  • Misunderstanding the other’s function
    Finance is about more than compliance. Fundraising is about more than dollars. “As you deal directly with bringing in funding, it’s important to understand how your role integrates with the fiscal function,” says Germeen.
  • Tunnel vision
    Are you so focused on your own goals that you can’t see the impact or interactions with other teams’ goals or projects?
  • The human factor
    Sometimes silos are the result of power struggles, insecurity, or interpersonal issues.

Want a better understanding of accounting and how to work with finance? Watch this session with Germeen Guillaume from the Responsive Nonprofit Summit!

The biggest factor leading to silos between finance and fundraising is the usual suspect when it comes to inefficient processes and organizational chaos: lack of communication. Even when everyone is perfectly willing to work together and is trying their best to be efficient, without shared data and clear communication, silos naturally arise.

In order to break down silos, you need two things to talk to each other: your teams and your software.

People Are Part of the Process

Making a change to reduce silos requires more than a change in software. It requires collaboration between teams and new processes to keep everyone in the loop. “We’re on the same team, so we should operate as such,” says Germeen.

Guiding Principles for Breaking Down Silos:

  • Establish transparency
  • Identify gaps
    Is this a people, process, or tech problem?
  • Become solutions-oriented
    Commit to finding positive solutions together, rather than assigning blame for past problems.
  • Listen to each other

To begin:

  • Bring together the relevant people and set your intention to eliminate the silos.
    Address the silos directly, to be sure you all understand the problem in the same way.
  • Start by asking questions
    Where are things breaking down? Where are you in conflict, competition, or agreement? What information is hard to come by? Which systems are working? Which ones aren’t?
  • Decide together on a new process of collaboration.
    How often will you meet to review goals and update each other? Do you need a new process to budget more collaboratively? How will you use your software? What kind of timelines will guide your work?
  • Define roles and responsibilities, as well as a process of accountability
  • Establish regular check-ins to see how your new process is working and fine-tune it.

Integrate Your Accounting Software with Your Fundraising Software

When you integrate your finance and fundraising software, you can save a lot of headaches. All teams access the same data, updated in real-time. “We want to do away with overly manual and legacy processes,” says Germeen. “Is your technology speaking to each other? … Look for ways to make the process easier and make it easier for us to share information.”

Work together as you set up your integration to establish the architecture of your data. Make sure all fields map appropriately, and that all team members understand them. Talk with each team to determine what information is needed, so your records are complete for everyone.

Once you’ve integrated your software, you can look forward to:

  • Fewer errors
  • Less time on reconciliation
  • Only entering data once
  • A clearer understanding of financials across the organization
  • Fewer emails requesting information
  • Clearer and more comprehensive reporting
  • Greater cybersecurity as you eliminate using manual processes like spreadsheets and emails to share financial data

It’s a Process

Like any big change, you probably won’t accomplish complete collaboration overnight. But as you make your processes more efficient, and work more intentionally to dismantle silos, you’ll quickly see the benefits of clear communication, data visibility, and your new modes of working together.

How Virtuous Can Help

With an open API, Virtuous easily integrates with accounting software. Want to learn more about how Virtuous can help your nonprofit be more efficient and responsive across departments? Book a demo.

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