At one of my previous positions, I had the privilege of working under one of the finest leaders I have ever worked with.

I will never forget when Nancy started, she took three months touring around the different production facilities, visiting field reps, and just generally getting a feel for the processes in place, employee satisfaction while making a list of changes she planned on making.

We talked for a long time one afternoon and she peppered me with questions of all kinds, but the one I remember getting a little tired of hearing eventually was “Why do you do it that way?”

Many times, my answer revolved around training procedures, or best practices I had put together, or advice from another sales rep or something like that. However, from time to time, my answer was “because that’s the way our production plant wants it done” or “that’s how accounting prefers it.”

I found out later that she went back to the production plants and the accounting department and asked them the same questions.

Then she made an announcement at our Summer Meeting that I will never forget. Nancy told 500 people that the Sales Department was responsible for bringing revenue in, that her salary couldn’t be paid without our revenue, that production’s salary couldn’t be paid without that revenue, and that the accounting department would have nothing to account were it not for the revenue that we produced.

From that point on, processes needed to be simplified so that Sales could concentrate on selling, not on paperwork or formatting and administration.

She had our devotion for life at that point, but she went further. We got a new database system based on the feedback of the sales team – something designed for us, not for accounting as the old system had been. We got lots of other tools to help us sell more and sell better, and we even got more training.

And for the first time in years, our division grew.

A lot.

By allowing us to focus on sales and only sales, and by giving us tools we needed to nurture our relationships more effectively, we grew.

I am still good friends with a lot of folks there, and I was talking to someone in accounting a while back. I asked how difficult it was to transition away from an accounting/sales tool to something focused exclusively on sales. She admitted there was a learning curve, but that once they got the hang of the processes, it was fine. And once she understood that Sales was getting bogged down in processes and procedures, and that was preventing us from doing our jobs, she welcomed the change.

Keep this long, rambling story in the back of your mind the next time you evaluate donor databases. Ask “Why do you do it that way?” often.

If the answer is to make accounting happy, carefully consider how to proceed.

Your Development Office is powering the change that your organization is visiting on your community. If their preferred tool will help them evaluate, nurture and grow relationships, but it creates a little extra work for another department, isn’t that alright? Consider having a meeting with everyone at the beginning of this process to talk about why you are looking at making a change.

If you want more and better engagement, improved donor retention rates and/or integrated advice from fundraising experts, focus on finding that. If other departments understand how critical development is to your mission, they will understand the importance of supporting development, not drawing territorial lines.