An Interview With LaShanda Jackson, Deputy Director of Fundraising
ROI: For any of our readers who don’t know, could you tell us about Common Cause’s mission, and a bit about the organization’s background?
LaShanda: Common Cause is a grassroots organization that is dedicated to putting the issues facing democracy on the forefront and holding our elected officials to the highest standards. Our goal is to have an open and accountable government that serves the people by representing everyone fully, and to have an engaged population of voters who build a democracy that works well for all of us. Since our founding in 1970, we played a major role in the unfolding of the Watergate scandal, in helping to ensure open access to public records, and in leading the campaign to lower our national voting age to 18, among many other things. Someone once told me “Common Cause was working for my civil rights even when I didn’t know who Common Cause was.”
ROI: How long have you been at Common Cause and where did you work beforehand?
LaShanda: I’ve been at Common Cause for about a year and a half now as the Deputy Director of Development at the National office in Washington DC. Before that, I initially worked in Development for the Library of Congress, then moved to the Public Justice Foundation, and most recently worked for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
ROI: You joined Common Cause in 2017, the organization underwent a conversion, and now has been live on Revolution Online for a few months – that’s a lot of change in a short period of time. How has the transition been and what has been working well from your perspective?
LaShanda: We have had a lot of changes over the past year and a half, but overall, everything has been very smooth. When I began my position at Common Cause, we were still looking for a new CRM. A few things drew me to ROI Solutions. The High Touch platform was particularly appealing to me, as a new and effective method of managing our major giving program. The dashboard is very intuitive, and allows us to group, understand, and manage our constituents easily. Prior to this we were using a different CRM tool that was very basic, it just didn’t really think as a system. Revolution Online is set up to work with each individual organization and to accommodate its’ needs as effectively as possible. The greater level of automation we experience using Revolution Online has also really helped save time in our Development and Accounting Departments.
Something that has been especially useful at Common Cause is Revolution Online’s web-based accessibility. Our prior tool was not web-based, so it was only accessible from our main office in Washington, DC. Over the past 48 years, we have grown from a single office, to a nationwide network with a presence in over 30 states. Now that we are using Revolution Online, the essential data housed in our database is accessible to any of our staff who need it when they need it.
One suggestion for other organizations going through a conversion to Revolution Online is to include as many people at your organization as possible in the process. Including them in the work ensures that they stay engaged with the new program, and it helps with the buy-in and the enthusiasm as you start the process.
ROI: Is your team excited about the new High Touch platform?
LaShanda: We are very excited, I have been in High Touch daily since it became available to us. It is wonderful to have a system that tracks everyone’s jobs and keeps them accountable for their responsibilities. The system is very clean and intuitive and streamlines the moves management process, which has helped us clean up our major gift data significantly and manage the whole end to end better.
ROI: As you interact with Common Cause’s Major Donors, are there any consistent themes/interests that you hear from them?
LaShanda: In all my past work experience in Development, there are definitely consistent themes amongst donors. They want to be engaged with the organizations they support, and they want to be followed up with. They need and deserve to feel secure in the knowledge that you know what you are doing, and that their gifts are being used responsibly.
ROI Solutions has proven to be a tremendous help with this by offering a 360° view of our donors. Revolution Online allows us to track features for each of our donors to see what they respond to positively and engage them accordingly. This more in-depth understanding of our constituents really helps us achieve our maximum impact with our donor base.
ROI: You have had a lot of success in Major Gifts over your career, and worked on a large-scale capital campaign at National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, so I wanted to know – do you ever get nervous making a big ask?
LaShanda: Each and every time. It is always a little nerve-wracking to make a big ask, something that I have found helpful in the process is to remember that you are not asking for money, you are asking for help in a cause that you both care about. The goal of fundraising is not to convince someone to agree with your opinions, it is to find a way to connect your donor’s existing interests and compassions with your organization’s philanthropic efforts.
The process is usually a long one, so by the time I make an ask, a relationship has already been formed, and I know whether our potential donor has that interest. If I have done my homework and my research, both the donor and I know the question is coming, and I can make a good guess at what the answer will be.
ROI: Have you been able to take time to do anything fun this summer?
LaShanda: I was! About three weeks ago, I was able to head down to South Carolina. We spent some time at Myrtle beach for a few days, and then headed up to my grandmother’s house in the country. There is not a whole lot of electronic access there, but it was nice to disconnect for a few days before jumping back into the thick of things at the end of August.
ROI: Thanks so much for your time and your insights, we really appreciate it, and I am sure our readers will too!